After Austin’s own DJ Mel finished spinning on Wednesday night at Stubb’s, I started to feel like I was in some sort of a time warp. The ticket stub I was holding may have said 2011, but I swear the minute Raphael Saadiq took the stage I was in the 1960s during the height of the Motown era. It isn’t everyday that someone can recreate that look and sound authentically, much less do so without playing (ruining) old Motown covers. Given his talent and previous resume (Tony! Toni! Toné! and Lucy Pearl), Saadiq didn’t even need to go there with that cover nonsense. He is that good live.
A full band with everything from keys and gospel-style back-up singers filled the stage and set the mood for Saadiq. Maybe he sensed that there were a lot of couples in attendance because the first song he came out with, after a long soulful intro of course, was “Love That Girl.” He picked it all up a notch with “Heart Attack” and “Radio” off of his current release, Stone Rollin. It was then that you started to see the mixed crowd of all ages, races, etc start to really move.
Much to my personal delight, Saadiq did dip into his Lucy Pearl catalog to perform a little bit of “Dance Tonight” but nothing more and nothing from his Tony! Toni! Toné! days at all. Being a little older and fan, it was disappointing but one can certainly understand the need or desire for Saadiq to get away from that. Still, it would have been a nice gift for those who never got to see Tony! Toni! Toné! live when they were a band.
The highlight of the set was when Saadiq brought up Kim Wilson, formerly of The Fabulous Thunderbirds and a harmonica bad ass, to perform with him. It was what I picture Antone’s to have sounded like in the ‘80s when it was all about the blues and nothing else. Wilson added to an already exemplary band and the crowd seemed to love it. This is Austin after all, and we still know and love our blues. What Austin also proved Wednesday, is that they love some old school soul and Raphael Saadiq.
(Raphael Saadiq performed at Stubb’s in Austin, Texas on June 8, 2011)