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Raphael Saadiq at the House of Blues Boston

G. Valentino Ball
Raphael Saadiq at the House of Blues Boston
Raphael Saadiq, the fomer front man for Tony!Toni!Tone!, was at the House of Blues Boston earlier this month and played hits from his new release “The Way I See It” and from his days with RandB trio Lucy Pearl. (Photo: Colette Greenstein)

When soul singer, Raphael Saadiq’s Kings Keep Marching tour stopped at Boston’s House of Blues, the performance was more than just another gig.  The tour, in conjunction with his latest offering, The Way I See It, was a celebration of  soul music.

If his work with Tony! Toni! Tone! was merely dipping his toe in the pool of retro sounds, then “The Way I See It,” is a full dive into the deep end.  Saadiq makes a voyage back to the melodies of Motown, the blues of Memphis, the RandB of Philadelphia and the jazz of New Orleans.  Saadiq is a part of a new trend that sees artists, like Amy Winehouse, mining retro-soul for different sounds.  However, none have done it with similar results as Saadiq who brings an authenticity to the trend that others can only aspire.

Paying tribute to a classic sound in a fresh way is nothing new for him.  His work with Tony! Toni! Tone! And Lucy Pearl shows that Saadiq is adept at this in the studio.  His triumph is how well his homage transitions into live show.  Taking the stage to the sounds of Marvin Gaye’s version of the “Star Spangled Banner,” Saadiq is committed to creating a full experience for his audience.  Even the roadies and techies are dressed in the skinny suits and thin ties circa 1950s, the same era from which he draws his sound.

Saadiq is the consummate showman. Dressed in blood-red skinny tuxedo, he is the embodiment of soul and takes his cues from the likes of Otis Redding, Jackie Wilson and James Brown, all of whom were inspiration for his latest album.  You can almost see Saadiq on the main stage of the Ed Sullivan show as he leads his seven-piece band deftly through his up-tempo, hour-long set.

Having come to the public’s attention as a part of Tony! Toni! Tone! in the late 1980s and with RandB trio, Lucy Pearl in the early 90s, it is clear that Saadiq enjoys the group dynamic.  He shares the stage with backup singers, who really aren’t backups at all as they are front and center with him dancing together and taking the lead on vocals in different songs.

For those not as familiar with his newest music, Saadiq sprinkles in hits from his previous groups, like the Lucy Pearl classic, “Dance Tonight,” which seems at home mixed in with songs from “The Way I See It.” But the focus is on his newest material and he plays all the hits – to the crowd’s delight. The up-tempo rhythm and retro-soul sound was taken to heart by the audience as many couples danced recalling the vibe of a past era.  Announcing that this was the last show of the tour, Saadiq was intent on giving the crowd its money’s worth.

By the time he took the stage for the third encore to lead a jam session version of the 5th Dimension’s Let the Sunshine In, his point is proven. Jackie, Otis and James would be proud.