Raphael Saadiq is fucking famous, I know that Band of Skulls was also playing at this 'Who Shot Rock & Roll’ series hosted by KCRW, but I didn't expect such a crowd at 4 pm for a concert announced at 7 pm. The lawn in front of the Annenberg Space for Photography building was full of people having decided to wait patiently for hours while having picnic, and the exhibit 'Who shot Rock & Roll' was not even an option, as the guard had warned me there wasa wait of at least 70 minutes to get in!
At 5:30 pm they declared full capacity, and since Saadiq took only the stage around 8 pm, I could tell that the large crowd was here to see him when I heard the acclamations as soon as he stepped a foot on stage, looking like one R&B legend of the past.
Wearing a black elegant zipper jacket, his famous thick glasses, and a white scarf around his neck – that he didn’t keep very long and he was soon in white t-shirt only – he kind of looked like a more intellectual Prince, minus the mane,… I mean he had this sort of cool moves, slickness and easiness on stage, and his large band, including a dynamic chanteuse and an enormous guy in a gospel-choir-robe behind a church organ were pure vintage soul/rhythm and blues revue.
He is certainly not the only one doing this soul revival, the neo-soul is a trendy thing to do these days since the success of the likes of Amy Winehouse and many others, but Raphael Saadiq doesn’t sound or look like someone jumping on the bandwagon, first of all he was playing soul/R&B with his first band Tony!Toni! Toné! in the 80s, way before it was trendy, secondly, he effortlessly lives soul music with a disarming natural. When they did one of their synchronized dancing, with even the participation of the impressive-stature guy, it looked a little bit like a scene from the Blues Brothers, or a Motown choreography, but it was probably more sweaty and such a crowd pleaser, truly fun to watch.
His set at the Annenberg space was quite short, seven songs of old school soul/R&B and they were gone, but there was a lot to watch and I had to keep up with people around me moving roughly and uncontrollably and making my task of photographer really difficult; in particular one drunken guy and his restless antics spoiled the show for me! Too bad, I wanted to punch his wasted face, and I am not a violent person! I know that stage dynamism can be contagious, but what he was doing had nothing to do with what was happening in front of him. Raphael Saadiq was continuing to make his dynamic masterful moves center stage, while I was struggling with the boozed-up idiot, who even started a mosh pit, probably thinking he was attending a punk show.
Beside this, watching the stage was like going back in time as the band was channeling the greatest groups of the past, Saadiq evoking some ghosts of a certain golden era of soul. But there was also some good old rock and roll in all this, especially in the newer songs, as they played several songs off his latest release ‘Stone Rollin’’, such as ‘Stone Rollin’, ‘Heart Attack’, ‘Radio’, and ‘Moving Down the Line’, whereas older songs had some pop too, and even a touch of funk.
The show was a sort of celebration, the love from the crowd was real, and everyone on stage looked happy, his backing singer providing action and grace, his guitarist doing the necessary solo at the right moment. It was flawless and too short, but may be it was the perfect amount of time to reinvigorate my taste for R&B music, which I currently find lost in mediocrity and hollowness.
100 Yard Dash
Leopard Skin Pill Box
Moving Down the Line