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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Live review: Raphael Saadiq at Variety Playhouse

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By Niccole Culver

Performing for his last night in Atlanta, Raphael Saadiq made the most of the intimate setting at the Variety Playhouse on Sat., March 28. Saadiq was humble, charming and witty during his performance, which would be expected from an artist who has written, sung and produced compelling music for over 20 years.

Despite being around for the past two decades, Saadiq has only released three solo albums since his days as the lead vocalist and bass player with late '80s/early '90s group Tony! Toni! Toné!.

Opening with hits from his latest studio album, The Way I See It, the audience was reminded of soul music recorded back in the day when record labels like Motown and Brunswick dominated the industry. Songs like "Keep Marchin'" and "Love That Girl" have the same smooth flow of R&B music from the '60s and '70s. Saadiq put forth a strong effort to emulate the musical sound of Al Green mixed with choreography reminiscent of the Temptations on cuts including "Oh Girl," "One Kiss," "Let's Take a Walk," "Sure Hope You Mean It," and the crowd favorite "100 Yard Dash."

The show went off without a hitch and it was obvious the band was enjoying itself. The modest stage and mediocre lighting were over-shadowed by Saadiq's high energy performance. Loyal Tony! Toni! Toné! fans were treated to some classics like "Lay Your Head on My Pillow," "Just Me and You," and "It Never Rains." Although Saadiq's musical style has changed since his days in Tony! Toni! Toné! his vocals and stage presence were as strong as they've always been.

With a look and sound similar to the Black Eyed Peas, opening act the Boogie, also put on a good show. The band, which consisted of two guys and a girl, struggled to get the crowed hype in the beginning but pulled through toward the end the performance. Those who liked it really liked it. Others gave a few head nods and hand claps.

In any case, it was an excellent night for music. The small, yet enthusiastic crowd that turned out for the sold-out, 90-minute set seemed to genuinely enjoy the performances, the music and themselves.

(Photo courtesy Sony Records)

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