Music Review: Raphael Saadiq

I went to the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center (WHBPAC) last Saturday to check out Raphael Saadiq. It was fun to groove on this former member of Tony! Toni! Tone!’s new sound, with a lot of oldies in the mix. The crowd, like the music, was a rich mix of old, young, black and white.

It’s a real gift that we have this beautiful performance space that can bring 425 people together at a time – to celebrate our shared culture.

The surprise hit of the night for me, though, was the opening act, Quadron. This eccentric Danish duo rocked my world! I don’t know how I’d missed them; I can easily see why their self-titled album made New York Magazine’s top 10 list last year.

review2Quadron

Lead singer, Coco Maja Hastrup Karshoj, makes it all look so easy. A spotlight illuminated her as she pulled off a vintage Billie Holiday look. Her rich but playful alto voice, close-mic’d and saturated with reverb, held the audience spellbound. Her small-statured sidekick and producer, Robin Hannibal, played spare keyboard accompaniments and sang backup while a computer provided rhythms and additional vocal harmonies. There were some synchronized moves and clapping happening. It so worked!

Check out their track “Jeans” on YouTube. It’s got a monster hook – “I’m into my old jeans.” Pretty freaky-good. Karshoj and Hannibal have such innocent-looking faces, they are the perfect team to make sexy fun with a capital “F.”

If you need your female singers served up as those who came before: CoCo Karshoj is one third Bjork, one third Annabella Lwin and about one third of a very sexy Allyson Moyette, plus more than a hint of a young Maria McKee, but all Danish. I can’t wait to hear what these outrageously talented kids come up with next!

After the electronic soul of Quadron, Raphael Saadiq’s old-school R&B seemed pretty mainstream. After playing a few vaguely Sly Stone-influenced tracks from his latest release, “Stone Rollin,” he pleased the crowd by returning to the makeout music that made him famous. Back in the standing room, it was all about dirty dancing at that point.

The thing is, part of the charm of Saadiq’s recordings is in their faithful, meticulous recreation of mid-60s sounds: his voice is often distorted to sound as if it was recorded badly using vintage gear, and his production styles mimic those of Sly Stone, Motown and Stax. Like most studio-dependent effects, these cannot be reproduced live, and the music suffers as a result.

We have a lot more to look forward to at WHBPAC this summer, big name acts include:

Josh Ritter-June 3.

Sachal Vasandani-July 23.

Elvis Costello and the Imposters-July 24.

Keb’ Mo September-24.

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