Raphael Saadiq‘s energy is so infectious that when he shouts “Seattle put your hands together!” to clap along to his warm and celebratory brand of vintage soul and r’n’b, absolutely no-one in the audience self-consciously looks around or stares down at their shoes or pretends to tweet. Instead everyone does in fact put their hands together – with the joyful abandon of clockwork seals.
Dancing his way onstage, Ray Ray’s five-piece backing band and two backing singers are already wildly grooving to the opening strains of ‘Staying In Love’.
Saadiq is currently touring the globe promoting his latest studio album Stone Rollin’ and tonight at Showbox at the Market he shows no signs of slowing down or of the tour taking its toll. He’s here to show Seattle a good time and he’s more than happy to do just that.
When he’s not effortlessly and flawlessly exhibiting his vocal and guitar talents, Raphael confidently clicks his fingers along to the beat like it was the most natural thing to do in the world. Which it is. Even when he doesn’t sing or play guitar, he’s clearly comfortable holding center stage and simply being entranced by and dancing to his own music.
His two backing singers continue to zealously provide actions to the lyrics of his songs while both singing their lungs out. When the guitar intro to ‘100 Yard Dash’ starts up, they start jogging on the spot so hard I half-expect them to burn a hole through the stage.
“Can I take you back a little bit?” Saadiq asks the audience. “Just a little bit?” as he begins to play the ‘Good Man’ retro guitar riff that’s straight from the Sixties with so much flange it sounds like he’s playing in an aquarium tank.
While Raphael is compelling to watch on stage, he definitely is not one to hog the limelight. Being a former bass player for Prince and Sheila E.’s backing band, he makes sure to welcome his backing singers to take over main mic duties and invites his lead guitarist to take the show’s reins, who proceeds to jam about four hours worth of guitar solos, finishing by playing note-perfect melodies with his guitar behind his head.
Even his keyboardist has a go at a solo. He takes a while to warm up but then ends up stealing the show with a Vandross-esque crescendo to cheers from both the crowd and his bandmates on stage.
Throughout the entire performance, the golden age of soul is revisited, savored and appreciated. The show is one continuous harmonious groove from start to finish with hardly any pauses for breath between songs. Although if Ray Ray has anything to say about it, the golden age of soul might still be yet to come.
In support were the Danish girl-boy duo Quadron who, despite their name sounding like a 1950s science fiction B movie, offer up a rich and simple blend of heartfelt electronic soul.
Singer Coco Maja Hastrup Karshøj and baseball-capped man-behind-the-keyboard-racks Robin Hannibal (I need more friends called Coco and Hannibal) produce delicate yet powerful songs, with percussion often only in the form of a few compressed clicks and claps that sound so sharp you’d think Edward Scissorhands and a robotic lobster were high-fiving in an airtight chamber.
Hannibal plays gentle electronic pads along to the beat that wouldn’t be out of place on James Blake’s album with the exception of sounding much warmer and not making you feel like they were recorded in an abandoned and very cold cave.
Hannibal then surprises us all by letting rip a pitch perfect falsetto that nobody was expecting.
“Not a lot of guys can sing like that!” Coco says, to a roar of approval from the audience.
The be-denimed Coco and fresh-from-the-skate-park Robin are relaxed enough but excited enough – a mixture of natural youthful exuberance and cool Scandinavian indifference – and nothing is forced or affected. The duo are completely comfortable being themselves onstage and it shows.
Quadron seem to be following no trends and are instead forging their own unique path, while making some very, very, very good music.
Raphael Saadiq’s setlist:
Staying In Love
Love That Girl
100 Yard Dash
Sure Hope You Mean It
Never Give You Up
Moving Down The Line
Were you at the show? What did you think of Raphael Saadiq? Are you a new convert to the lush sounds of Quadron? Let KEXP know in the Comments section below!