Raphael Saadiq Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON March 16
Published Mar 17, 2009If the so-called retro-soul movement of the past few years induces you to roll your eyes as more have jumped on the bandwagon, Raphael Saadiq is one artist likely to escape cynical scrutiny. While his latest album, The Way I See It, unapologetically mining '60s and '70s soul motifs, Saadiq is one contemporary artist who deserves to reap the rewards.
Saadiq and his band took to the stage in dapper black suits and immediately launched into a soul revue jam session before front-loading his set with tracks from his latest release. Saadiq and his background singers performed some reverential Temptations-style dance moves to accompany "Love This Girl" and "100 Yard Dash," but the semblance of meticulous revivalism was loosened as soon as he tossed off his skinny black tie into the crowd and delved into his own deep back catalogue.
Highlighting his own prowess as a songwriter, producer and a bandleader, Saadiq intermittently peppered his set with a medley of tracks from his past projects. His short Lucy Pearl supergroup set was highlighted by "Dance Tonight" but it was the Tony! Toni! Toné! medley, featuring hits like "Anniversary," and "Lay Your Head On My Pillow" that was rapturously received by the capacity crowd.
Despite the crowd's willingness to lap up pretty much anything the charismatic Saadiq did, including mouthing lyrics sans microphone to the ladies in the audience, he didn't totally play by the book, rearranging solo single "You Should Be Here" into a rock-infused workout and turning "Sure Hope You Mean It" into an extended righteous jam.
For his encore, Saadiq tapped into two of the best tracks from 2002's Instant Vintage, successfully getting the crowd to play the part of the tuba on "Still Ray" and strapping on a bass for a sumptuous version of the exquisite "Skyy, Can You Feel Me," which was highlighted by the gospel-tinged vocal acrobatics of his keyboardist and his impressive background singer Erika Jerry.
By the time the show ended with "The Big Easy," his uplifing dedication to the victims of Hurricane Katrina, it was unequivocally clear that with his own 20-year history of music, Saadiq is an artist continuing to build his own envious soul music legacy regardless of trends and music industry whims.