ACL '09: Raphael Saadiq Offers A Lesson In How To Do An R&B Show Right.

Three times, Raphael Saadiq asked the audiences fawning before him, "Do you love me tonight?" Three times, the response was a resounding, enthusiastic, unwavering yes.

"I sure hope you mean that," he quipped, flashing a smile.

But how could the crowds not? Backed by an impeccably tight band and flanked by a pair of backup singers and dancers that offered Tempations-like synchronized dance moves behind Saadiq's own motions, the charming singer wowed the crowds at the XBox stage, re-opening the doors to the frozen-in-time sounds of Motown. Sliding, gliding and snapping his way about the stage as the audience hollered him on with encouraging hoots, Saadiq recalled a young David Ruffin, letting his on-stage prowess declare for all to see that this, ladies and gentlemen, is an impossibly charismatic and magnetic performer--one worth fair greater priase than the amount he's currently earning.

And most impressive? Never once did he slow down. Nor did his vocals ever waver. The consummate pro, Saadiq simply fed of the energy the crowd provided him--and he was being tossed that much in spades, as both make and female audiences erupted in applause and near-shrieking vocal approval at the culmination of each song.

I dunno. Maybe I'm just biased. After all, I was already a fan; Saadiq's 2008 release The Way I See It is the best Motown release Motown never put out, far as I'm concerned.

And, schooled in the power of the live performance since his days in Tony! Toni! Tone!, Saadiq showed that he could pull off that impressive studio release in a live setting--and quite well, too. For my money, this was the best performance of ACL's Day One.

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Pete Freedman
Contact: Pete Freedman