Ordinarily, nostalgic revivals of the artistic modes from past decades are an embarrassing aggregation of the most cliched features your parents can remember. I'm talking about this guy:
This annoying bastard spent a lot of money on his zoot suit during the ghastly swing revival of the 1990s and wore it everywhere from Cherry Poppin' Daddies shows to Starbucks while trying not to seem self-conscious. And failing. JUMP, JIVE AND WAIL, you guys. He's an ugly caricature of an era that was way more interesting and complicated than Brian Setzer would have you believe. Remember this guy; he's a valuable straw man we'll be punching some more later!
By contrast, Raphael Saadiq -- song writer and super producer, not to mention a founding member of legendary R&B combo Tony! Toni! Toné! -- effortlessly evoked the midtempo R&B of the 1960s at last night's performance at the Voodoo Lounge, without the temporal inauthenticity of throwbacks like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy or the entire run of the TV series Happy Days. The result is a contemporary sound with the best traits of Motown and old R&B -- stratocasters, Hammond B-5 organs, a string section (simulated in concert by an awesome keyboard player) and refreshingly melisma-free singing. Not to mention some awesome suits:
Seriously? Lookin' good, Charlie Ray Wiggins. I was going to post a photo of a particular audience member who attended last night's show to contrast with Saadiq's obvious sartorial excellence and decided that would be totally unfair. Suffice to say: Backwards ballcap? "Cool dad" jeans? Kansas City represent! Bill Clinton is enjoying his retirement, now, and Four Non Blondes disbanded a long time ago. You can turn your ballcap forwards, now, Deep Blue Something.
Last night's performance, like Saadiq's 2008 release The Way I See It, was sleek, polished and minimal. Saadiq and his frankly amazing duo of backup singers engaged in old-school call-and-response harmonies and some tight choreography. Here is a photo of some choreography:
For the record, if I were a hot girl, I'd cut my hair in a bob and wear a suit with a really narrow sillhouette. And dance a lot, obvs. Seriously, that woman absolutely killed it last night, to the point where I actually came up with an embarrassing little mental bullet-list of what I'd do if I were a hot girl. SHUT UP.
The best single from The Way I See It, "100 Yard Dash," came three songs into the set, punctuated by Saadiq's demand to hear what town he was in. "Kansas City!" I kept shouting. But he couldn't hear me. "I don't hear nothin'," he shouted back. It was so frustrating!
Naturally, the crowd's biggest response came during Saadiq's mid-show medeley of Tony! Toni! Toné! hits. It was a positive response! Lots and lots of people remember the lyrics to "Lay Your Head On My Pillow," it turns out. Including other musicians -- a friend pointed out two members of Kansas City's Good Foot soul revue digging on the show, and I photo-sniped them. Then I felt like a jerk. Then I Photoshopped arrows over their heads so you could see them, and posted it here anyway. You guys are great!
Saadiq's wardrobe progressed logically over the course of the evening. Glasses, tie, jacket disappeared, until, by the time he jokingly offered invisible Mardi Gras beads if women in the audience would flash their bewbies, he was wearing a lady-pleasing black tank-top. He closed the night out with "Big Easy," from The Way I See It, a song about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, related with an up-tempo drive that enhances its uneasiness.
The show wasn't long, but it was potent; Saadiq and his band have absorbed their obvious influences, and created a contemporary sound with a long memory. On the other hand, this guy is still calling the clerk at his neighborhood food co-op "Daddy-O:"