Raphael Saadiq and Jamila Woods showcased undeniable power of songwriting

 By Megan Wolford

February 10, 2020

On a cool and drizzly night in Charlotte, a music legend came to the Queen City. Having toured for the first time in years since the release of his latest album, Jimmy Lee, Raphael Saadiq serenaded a crowd of eager onlookers on Wednesday night at The Fillmore. The audience, filled with golden era adults who were 20 somethings in the ‘90s, were primed for an evening of generational music that spanned decades. 

But before Raphael Saadiq hit the stage, Jamila Woods warmly informed the crowd it was her first time performing in Charlotte. Hailing from Chicago, Woods was backed by a dynamic band playing with flawless pace and vigor. Performing tracks from her 2017 album HEAVN and her latest, LEGACY! LEGACY!, the setlist weaved together poetry from Nikki Giovanni and personal anecdotes (each song on LEGACY! LEGACY! is named after a historical figure dear to her heart). An unsuspecting highlight from her set was a cover of the popular gospel song “Melodies from Heaven” by Kirk Franklin. 

In an ode to his brother lost to addiction, the Jimmy Lee Tour set began with a mini-doc in VHS format showcasing the legacy of Raphael Saadiq, creating an intimate, nostalgic experience for the audience complete with family photos and clips of pivotal moments in his career. Outfitted in an all-black studded feathered top hat, Saadiq was ready for his journey of sound. Starting with “Skyy, Can You Feel Me,” off his Instant Vintage album, the crowd went into a mix of whistles, screams, and rhythmic claps. The band sounded rather low for the first few songs, but Saadiq enthusiastically performed through the technical difficulty. The volume and timbre would come through in full force pushing the crowd to another level of vivacity as the show progressed.  

Raphael Saadiq. Photo: Jalen Marlowe

The band fused melodic tapestries that fully showcased the genius of Saadiq, an artist whose music has impacted four decades of culture. A standout quality of Saadiq is his ability to tell a multitude of stories with not only his lyrics but his method of composition. 

The setlist spanned his full catalog outside of Tony! Tone! Tony! and his solo singing career. The singer-songwriter and producer awarded the audience with a myriad of hits. Early on he performed “Dance Tonight,” a song from Lucy Pearl, a group he formed with Dawn Robinson of EnVogue and Ali Shaheed of A Tribe Called Quest in 2000. 

Raphael Saadiq. Photo: Jalen Marlowe

Mid-show Saadiq slipped into a second ensemble and brought out two special guests: blues guitarist Eric Gales and Broadway actor Daniel J. Watts. Gales and Saadiq delivered an electrifying guitar performance that brought the house down. By the end of their session Saadiq had sprawled on the ground with his guitar, a move reminiscent of flashy performers like James Brown, Little Richard, and Prince. Performing the poem, “Rikers Island Redux,” from the Jimmy Lee album, Daniel J. Watts entranced the crowd with his gripping words that ended in an interpretive Krump dance number, native to California from where Saadiq hails.  

Raphael Saadiq. Photo: Jalen Marlowe

Raphael Saadiq ended the show with a medley of hits he’s crafted for the slew of artists he’s worked with throughout his illustrious career. He performed renditions of D’Angelo’s “Untitled (How Does It Feel),” followed by “Lady,” also a staple from the D’Angelo catalog. Proclaiming Solange his little sister, he effortlessly strummed the ethereal “Cranes in the Sky,” “Kissin’ You” by Total, and “Love of My Life” by Erykah Badu, the song that won him a Grammy in 2003. A true pioneer of R&B and soul music, Saadiq left embraced by a city that truly adores the art he has given the world. 

Check out the remaining 2020 dates for Raphael Saadiq’s Jimmy Lee Tour.

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