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Raphael Saadiq Wows in Seattle Tour Opener


One city, four concerts, nine months: Most performers would wear out their welcome, but Raphael Saadiq is not most performers — and Seattle can’t get enough of the lady-killing, big-band-leading soul slinger.

From his “The Way I See It” tour stop in March to two N’awlins-spiced sets at Bumbershoot in September to last night’s old-school-leaning “Kings Keep Marchin'” tour opener at the Showbox, Saadiq gives his audience what it wants.

Saadiq and his eight-piece band took the stage to the sound of Marvin Gaye’s live rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” from the 1983 NBA All-star game and left to their own cover of “Let the Sunshine In” by the Fifth Dimension. In between, the 43-year-old, Oakland-born multi-talent switched from bass to guitar — and candy-apple red suit to grey plaid three-piece to bicep-flaunting wife beater (revealing a Hendrix portrait tattooed on his left shoulder).

Saadiq touched on career-spanning highlights, including the set-opening “100-Yard Dash” from last year’s Grammy-nominated The Way I See It, “Faithful” from 2002’s poetically-named Instant Vintage, and “Dance Tonight” from his decade-old Q-Tip/En Vogue collabo band Lucy Pearl.

No D’Angelo on “Be Here”-though this version smoldered with heavy Parliament-style slow funk. No Stevie Wonder on “Never Gonna Give You Up”-but trumpet filled in for Stevie’s harmonica solo. He covered Sly Stone’s “Underdog” and took on extra vocal duties for “Show Me the Way,” his 2005 cameo with Earth Wind & Fire. Women catcalled and raised digital cameras as he mugged for photos at the front of the stage.

Throughout, Saadiq’s backing band was almost invisible in its tightness-until a monumental encore number when the keyboard player took lead vocals for “Skyy, Can You Feel Me,” one of the night’s goose-bumpingest moments. Choreographed dance moves were sophisticated, natural; horn and guitar solos stretched out just long enough to confirm improvisation. The entire performance felt calibrated for maximum entertainment.

And that’s what fans got. This is the luxury of being a soul-stirring mega-talent in 2009: Every era, every influence, is at your disposal. Saadiq sampled them all, made them his own, then offered it to his fans, and they ate it up.

100-Yard Dash
Keep Marchin’
Love That Girl
Sure Hope You Mean It
Be Here
Let’s Take a Walk
Never Gonna Give You Up
Show Me the Way
Standing in Love
Skyy, Can You Feel Me
Big Easy