Sohotown: Raphael Saadiq at S.O.B.’s


A fount of healing, both spiritual and sexual. CREDIT

Raphael Saadiq
Tuesday, September 30

Raphael Saadiq is exceptionally good at what he does, but what he does, or at least what he’s doing lately, is balling up his fists and wishing with all his might that he was born 50 years earlier, so he could transform himself into a Spector/Wonder/Gordy sort of titan presiding over a Stax/Motown sort of empire. Posters around S.O.B.’s tonight touting his new insta-vintage record, The Way I See It, credit him as a “musician/singer/songwriter/producer”; his band takes the stage to Marvin Gaye’s famous version of the National Anthem, and when the recording cuts out abruptly right before the perilous fight, there’s a two-minute silence, and then it starts all over again, and plays all the way through before Raphael triumphantly emerges, dapper but not flashy, charismatic but not goofy, graceful but not manic, elegantly pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose in mid-glide as sweat drips down.

Parts of The Way I Am are fantastic, throwback-soul gems precisely calibrated and passionately delivered. (“100 Yard Dash” is the stomper, “Sometimes” the weeper.) And it’s fun to watch Raphael and his full band vacillate between the record’s chaste going-steady come-ons (lots of holding hands and whatnot) and the way more salacious grown ‘n’ sexy seduction anthems he sired during his tenures with Tony! Toni! Toné! and Lucy Pearl, tonight crammed into medleys that still manage to give “Anniversary” and “It Never Rains in Southern California” and such room to breathe. If he ever figures out how to combine his politely ribald past with his present obsession with the overly chaste past, we’ll really be in trouble. If anyone currently alive can craft credible x-rated Motown hits, he’s the dude. “Kissing you is not enough for me,” he moans, to lusty audience whoops. “I’m a big boy, and big boys have desires.”