“This election isn’t just about this generation but about the next three generations,” soul star Raphael Saadiq told the audience at the House of Blues last night. The free concert was organized for Obama campaign volunteers and potential volunteers, with sign-up sheets for canvassing shifts in the lobby.
Before the show, Saadiq, joined by a local volunteer neighborhood leader Ken from Ward 2, talked to a small group of reporters about his passion for convincing younger people that their vote counts and that they can make a difference, no matter how frustrating politics can seem. Ken talked about setting up tables in vacant lots on Cleveland’s southeast side to register voters.
Saadiq and his six-musician ensemble then took the stage for a powerful set that touched on funk, gospel, blues, uptempo Memphis-style soul, and romantic neo-soul ballads. The latter were a special favorite of the audience, which was dominated by African-American women of all ages. They screamed approvingly when he pulled off his jacket during his rendition of “Me and You,” a hit for vocal group Tony! Toni! Tone!, which launched Saadiq’s career in the late ’80s.
The set opened with “Keep Marchin” from Saddiq’s 2008 album the Way I See It, which he said is a favorite tune of the President’s. It built to an extended rendition of “Skyy Can You Feel Me,” with his female backup Erika Jerry and his keyboard player taking roof-raising turns on lead vocals.