by: cathy foreman
Generally, when the dates for a festival are announced, we wait anxiously to see who will be on the lineup. If you don’t know, Hopscotch is a local music festival in Raleigh and it just completed its 10th anniversary edition. Now Hopscotch is one of the more eclectic festivals around the area, providing us music from local bands, a lot of Indy artists with rock and alternative backgrounds and some r&b acts. The acts perform at a host of music venues within the downtown area. So, you have a relative menu and can select your flavor. For me, my flavor was the amazing Raphael Saadiq, who had also been on my bucket list. So, being able to check that item off was a big thing.
Widely known as a singer, Saadiq is also a songwriter and producer. During his performance we would also find out that while he doesn’t play instruments a lot, during his performances, he actually loves to play; there’s a story there. He told us that when he and Tony! Toni! Toné ! came out, it was the time of boy bands and boy bands were known for dancing not playing instruments … so it was suggested that he put his instrument down. If you’re like me, you’re saying “How sway?” I’m here to tell yah, I’m glad he didn’t let that ideology dictate his future.
After an eight-year hiatus, Saadiq would return to us with new work inspired by and somewhat about his brother, Jimmy Lee, the actual namesake of album. The tracks carry a somewhat psychedelic and dark undertone. When you listen to the complete album, that undertone helps convey the subject matter, which is quite heavy as well; drugs and mass incarceration. Even with the darkness of some of the tracks, the musicianship that comes along with these cuts is crazy; it almost feels “Alice in Wonderland-like” especially on cuts like “Glory to the Veins” and “Sinners Prayer”, but then he takes us on what feels like a funky dance groove with “So Ready”, still with that psychedelic tip and he all but takes us to church with the 70’s blacksplotation vibe of “Riker’s Island”. The album is a killer from front to back, taking you through a range of feelings but one steady vibe. So, we were excited to hear any of the album, live.
Of his set, Saadiq took us through a time warp, reminding us just how awesome and amazing he truly is. He started with, of course cuts from Jimmy Lee, like the ones I’ve listed above “So Ready”, “Sinner’s Prayer” and his current release, “Something Keeps Calling”. He then took us through a beautiful medley of older and popular hits … some of his own and others that he wrote and produced. Hits like “Ask of You”, “Feels Good”, Lucy Pearl’s “Dance Tonight”, Total’s “Kissing You”, DeAngelo’s “How Does it Feel” and Solange’s “Cranes in the Sky”. All of which the crowd showed sheer love for and sang along with him. It was a definite warm welcome for him and I’m glad I was there to take it in.