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Music | POP MUSIC REVIEW

Soul revivalist Saadiq draws from a well of emotions

The singer-guitarist shows his commitment in a set of sophisticated, organic sounds at the House of Blues.

January 31, 2003|Steve Appleford | Special to The Times

Raphael Saadiq was apologetic, frustrated, inspired. An hourlong set of his modern soul music just wasn't enough, cut short on Wednesday at the House of Blues by an 11 p.m. curfew for the all-ages show. But what the singer-guitarist did deliver was generous enough, continuing a revival he helped ignite as part of the group Tony Toni Tone more than a decade ago.

Saadiq's sound has only grown in sophistication in the years since. He's appeared in various musical guises, including last year's debut as a solo artist on the album "Instant Vintage," which pulled in five Grammy nominations. On the same stage in 2001, he was part of the trio Lucy Pearl, and even then he was the short fuse, erupting behind the microphone and his guitar.

On Wednesday, he was accompanied by a band of seven players and three backup singers (most in matching dark suits, red shirts and white ties), all of them committed to sounds that were emotional and organic. So that was a real tuba blown by Kelvin Wooten and not a cheap sample during the romantic and celebratory "Still Ray," which had Saadiq purring a vocal turn worthy of classic Stevie Wonder.

Fellow soul revivalists Angie Stone and Musiq Soulchild joined in on "Excuse Me" while Saadiq stepped back to riff elegantly on his electric guitar.

Second-billed Rhian Benson was a fitting match for Saadiq, leading her six-piece band in a soulful blend of jazz and folk. The West African-born singer performed with the ease and confidence of a headliner, injecting a jazzy vibe amid the deep throb and sharp beats of Bob Marley's "Jammin'." The revival continues.

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