John Legend and Raphael Saadiq (12/2/2008)
John Legend and Raphael Saadiq are already viewed as icons of neo-soul, but each artist possesses a distinct pallet from which they conjure their melodic visions. Legend has clearly become the more well-known star out of the two, having put forth three major albums that have garnered both critical acclaim and solid record sales. Comparisons to classic crooners like Marvin Gaye have also been abundant, and with Legend only recently entering his third decade on the planet, more accolades and success are sure to come.
On the other side of the coin is Raphael Saadiq, now a veteran of the R&B scene at age forty-two. Saadiq first came to prominence during the late nineteen eighties as the lead singer and bassist for popular R&B act Tony! Toni! Tone! The group enjoyed a string of hits including the songs "Little Walter," "It Never Rains in Southern California," and the classic "Anniversary." In the ensuing years, Saadiq would form the short-lived super group Lucy Pearl and release his first solo album Instant Vintage, which was viewed by many as an instant classic. Saadiq is now happier in the role of behind-the-scenes man, as he has become one of the most successful and sought-after producers in the game, producing hit songs for artists such as D'Angelo and, yes, John Legend.
The creative juxtaposition of these two R&B heavy hitters was on display this evening, much to the delight of the audience at the Orpheum Theater in Boston. Saadiq opened the show with the upbeat cut "Love That Girl" from his new Motown inspired album The Way I See It, and the crowd abided as they danced in the aisles and sang along with the band who, with Saadiq himself, were entirely decked out in vintage 1960s garb. What became quickly evident was Saadiq's energetic showmanship and his ability to woo every woman in the house simultaneously, as he danced around the stage strategically removing bits of clothing until he revealed his tattooed biceps.
Although Saadiq continues to be under appreciated in the mainstream pop world for his slick R&B gems, the crowd at the Orpheum were clearly not your average R&B fans, giving Saadiq the dap he so rightly deserves. For a moment he truly transported the old Orpheum Theater back to the 1960s golden age of R&B. A highlight included the infectious headbopper "Be Here," from Instant Vintage, and "Big Easy," Saadiq's heartfelt tribute to the victims of Hurricane Katrina.
Not to be outdone, John Legend entered the theater and smoothly sauntered down the aisles, through the audience, and onto the stage--all while a montage of Legend as a boxer skulking around the ring was beamed into the crowd. His opening number was the energetic track "I Used to Love U" from his debut Get Lifted. The set featured a variety of songs with equal output from each of Legend's three studio albums, including the tracks "We Just Don't Care," You Know That I Love You," "Green Light," and (one of the high points) "Slow Dance," during which Legend pulled a lucky girl from the audience (think Bruce Springsteen "Dancing in the Dark" with Courtney Cox) up on stage to engage in a slow dance of their own. The show was brought to a close with a beautiful encore version of the already classic piano ballad "Ordinary People" and a short PSA about Legend's "Show Me" campaign, in which he encouraged the crowd to text a donation to aid Bossaso Village in Ghana and closed the show with a song of hope, "If You're Out There."