“I see you sexy…”
That’s what Raphael Saadiq said pointing into the Shepherd’s Bush Empire’s crowd. Five or so girls in his eye-line veritably swooned, hoping he was talking to them – and only to them.
Sex appeal? The man has got it in bucketloads. Style? Oh yes. Soul? Indeed. So much so that OhDearism’s Rosie and I both agreed that his was one of the best gigs we’d been to in a very long time. It wasn’t trying to be something it wasn’t. It wasn’t moody. It was pure playful rhythm.
It was good, clean, infectious, joyful and oh-so-danceable fun! The gig drew a mixed crowd, black and white, young and old. An unlikely looking lot that, once he got started, moved as one hip-swinging, finger-clicking, hand-clapping group.
Haven’t heard of him? You’ve probably heard of Tony! Toni! Tone!, the group he co-founded back in the late 1980s, who sang that it never rained in southern California.
Still don’t know? He then went on to form Lucy Pearl with Dawn Robinson of En Vogue and Ali Shaheed Muhammad from A Tribe Called Quest. They had a top-20 hit with ‘Don’t Mess With My Man’ in 2000.
His solo career kicked off with ‘Instant Vintage’ in 2003 – and five Grammy nominations to boot. He has collaborated with some of the big guns in the music industry, like Jay Z, Mary J Blige, John Legend and more. Now in his mid-40s, he still exudes a boyish charm that belies his age and ensures his appeal to old fans and new.
On Thursday night he played solid soul straight through and had the venue on its feet. Heart attack, Go To Hell and new single Stone Rollin’ starred from the new album of the same name, and had that unmistakeable Motown sound, that you just couldn’t help singing and smiling along to.
Saadiq’s songs are full of new nostalgia, a modern-day throwback to music-makers of the past, a nod to the now via the 1960s. It feels like music you’ve grown up to, that you’ve always known, but that is still fresh and exciting. They are pure “forgotten classics”.
Saadiq has labelled his music ‘Gospeldelic’, describing its fusion of samples, soul, gospel and R&B. Speaking to VH1, Saadiq says “Gospeldelic [is] truth of expression, meaning some of it’s true, some of it’s fun, some of it’s serious. That’s what gospel is. Gospel is true statements. The ‘delic’ is from my funkadelic, psychedelic era. I wanted to throw that in there so I can be a little wild.”
Saadiq’s music feels authentic, honest and genuine. It’s soul music, but it’s also music for the soul, and as we floated down Shepherd’s Bush Green singing “you’re givin’ me a heart attack!”, I felt my soul lifted.
Raphael Saadiq played Shepherd’s Bush Empire on 28 May. His new album Stone Rollin’ is out now.
[Image from The Guardian]