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Concert Reviews:
Legend, Saadiq Kick It Old School At Masonic

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Friday, November 28, 2008

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DETROIT -- School is usually out for the Thanksgiving holiday, but on Thanksgiving eve (Wednesday, Nov. 26), a couple of R&B's young lions -- John Legend and Raphael Saadiq -- put on a master class in old school soul showmanship at the Masonic Temple Theatre.

Legend, a protege of Kanye West's did bring some contemporary touches to his 100-minute headline set, whether it was the electro groove and Andre 3000 rap in his hit "Green Light" or the high-tech dazzle displayed on two video screens stacked at the back of the stage. But the ebb-and-flow was decidedly in a classic mold, building a smooth dialogue with the small but exuberant audience that shifted flavors between an ebullient house party, a low-key one-night stand and a spirited revival.

The Ohio native (real name John Stephens) broke down the walls early, opening the show by strolling down the theater's center aisle and climbing onto the stage for the upbeat "Used to Love U." Clad in a leather jacket, white T-shirt, shades, a scarf and fingerless gloves, Legend led his nine-piece band through a breathless set of "Satisfaction," "It's Over," a particularly phat "Alright," a hand-waving "Heaven Only Knows" and "Stereo" before settling in for his only extended bit of Marvin Gaye-styled stage patter.

"When I come here, I feel at home," Legend told the crowd, saluting Detroit as "the capitol of black popular music" and telling his fans that "we all need love right now. When times get hard, you need love sometimes."

And there was plenty of love throughout the rest of the show, as Legend rolled through hits from his three albums such as "Let's Get Lifted," "Number One," "Save Room" and a late-show medley that included "This Time," "I Love, You Love," "Adore," "So High" and a bit of Prince's "Purple Rain." During "Slow Dance" he brought a fan on stage to do just that, while the encore featured a solo rendition of "Ordinary People" and the social action anthem "If You're Out There," with a parade of images of political and cultural heroes ending with president-elect Barack Obama.

Saadiq's 40-minute opening set was a bit more traditionally old school, reveling in the Motown overtones of his latest solo album, "The Way I See It." The former Tony! Toni! Tone! leader (real name Charlie Ray Wiggins) sported a yellow suit and led his own nine-piece band through loose-limbed and energetic takes of songs such as "Love That Girl (So Sweet and Tender)," "Let's Take a Walk" and "Staying in Love," although he actually walked off earlier than he had to and appeared a bit off-stride when he returned to play an additional five minutes.

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