Private corporate events have a tendency to be sterile, stuffy affairs. The same would have been true for the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Awards Banquet, hosted by the Urban League of Central Carolinas, had it not been for the dynamic showmanship of Raphael Saadiq.
As soon as Saadiq hit the stage, a wave of energy surged through the crowd. Within seconds, a throng of women rushed to the stage — screaming pleasantries and offering broad smiles of approval. Right behind them, a sea of men collectively loosened ties from around their necks and, in many cases, blazers and sports coats became unbuttoned as well.
No prodding was necessary to urge the audience to sway to the smooth grooves of "Keep Marchin’," "Love That Girl," and "100 Yard Dash." And one by one, dancing couples emerged—two-stepping there troubles away. Although there were a few idle onlookers, the room fell into a collective frenzy as the bass line from "Dance Tonight," Lucy Pearl’s 2000 hit, spewed from the speakers. Nostalgia firmly set in, however, as Saadiq moved into a string of classic Tony! Toni! Tone! hits: "(Lay Your Head on My) Pillow," "It Never Rains in Southern California," and "Anniversary."
Saadiq followed the Tony! Toni! Tone! set with "Ask Of You," a forgotten gem from the Higher Learning soundtrack, as audible murmurs of "That was my jam!" swept across the crowd. Fourteen years after the song’s initial release, one would have been hard-pressed to find an audience member who had forgotten its lyrics, in spite of total radio obscurity. Coming back to the present, Saadiq returned to The Way I See It — playing "Let’s Take a Walk" and "Sure Hope You Mean It."
Before diving into "Be Here" (from Instant Vintage), Saadiq pulled a lucky fan onto the stage. To say the adoring woman was smitten would, of course, be an understatement. The crowd stared in amazement, as she took full advantage of the opportunity to dance, hold and squeeze Mr. Saadiq, while they bounced to the beat.
As the drinks from the open bar flowed endlessly, time flew by faster than a senior prom. The crowd yearned for more. And I, too, hoped to hear my personal favorites: "Whatever You Want" and "Feels Good," #1 R&B hits from the Revival (1990). Unfortunately, when an artist has a vast catalog, like Raphael Saadiq, select songs will undoubtedly be omitted. Fortunately, no matter the evening’s set list, every song was a hit and thoroughly enjoyed by the crowd.Powered by Sidelines