AB (Brussels), 18/10/2009
Boy O Boy! Do I have a pretty story to tell with (lots of) pretty pictures for the ones that hate to read! Like Etta said: At Last!
Raphael Saadiq in the land of waffles, beer and exquisite chocolate. It’s like Raphael has always been around, discrete in the background, but very much present. At least, for the ones with that specific ear longing for that specific sound. Raphael Saadiq is a born writer, musician, singer ànd producer. After touring with Prince. (Yes Thé Prince) Lucy Pearl gave him worldwide recognition and when he released his first solo album, that resulted in 5 Grammy nominations. He produced for Whitney Houston, Joss Stone, Kelis, Stevie Wonder, Q-Tip, Jaguar Wright, Leela James, Musiq Soulchild and I hàve to mention his work on that àmazing track ‘Untitled’ (How does it Feel) with D’Angelo that gave him the Grammy Nomination for Best RnB song and gave D’Angelo a Grammy for Best Male Vocal RnB. Like I said. Always in the back of the soundtrack of your life, but very much present…
Jules and I were looking forward to hearing his multitalented, honey layered voice live on a lazy Sunday. He was finishing his European Tour promoting his musically warm welcomed ‘The Way I See It’ album, dipped in that oldskool Motown sound, enforced with a live band. Blogwise we were relieved that he was booked in a venue like Ancienne Belgique in Brussels, my favorite in Belgium, but although our hopes were high, we knew from paste experiences that, considering this a done deal, would not be smart. While doing my research I stumbled upon Raphael Saadiq’s blog and there I noticed the following message:
“I’m finally giving into twitter and trying to step my game up, (LOL). I may not be able to respond to everyone ALL the time, especially while out here in Europe, harder to keep in touch, but no doubt I read everyone’s comments and twitters. Please keep it coming, what YOU (the fans) have to say means more than anything. The band and I love seeing fans’ comments and reactions….showing support for the shows, passing to friends, posting photos, even negative feedback, whatever it may be …. the fans’ support are keeping this movement strong, I really feel it.
So… don’t think I don’t see all you out there taking photos and videos at the shows (LOL), I notice everyone. I want to encourage fans to send videos, photos, artwork, anything that you’ve taken at a show or created from being inspired by the music, I want to see The Way YOU See It. Going to create an email address for fans to submit and will feature my favorite photos/videos/art by fans on the blog and facebook. Email address coming soon. Let’s Go!”
Hmm. Notice everyone? Read comments on twitter? Hmm. Well, the notice part I had to find out later that night, but the twitter part, well, thàt I could check instantly… And so I did. I twittered him.(We are a strange generation, Twitter is such a bizar phenomena and I only use it blogwise, since I cannot possible think who might be interested in me hanging up my laundry or taking a leak, or licking my lips, or whatever, but for my blog, it is very interesting to keep track of certain artists.)
Now, approximately 20 minutes later, right before I tend to leave my appartement heading for Brussels, I noticed this:
He re-tweeted me! And yes, ‘to re-tweet’ is a verb these days. I was completely excited about it and headed for Brussels with a smile on my face. Still careful though, at the end of the day, this could mean nothing. When Jules and me entered the venue we immediately noticed that there were no fences in front of the stage, so no barriers between artist and public. Made me think of that night with Q-tip. And thàt my dear readers, is a good sign… It took me exactly 3 minutes to squeeze myself in the only single spot front row. With Jules in my tail, we were ready. DJ Lefto was warming up the crowd for an amazing night to come.
And then; The velvet curtains opened, a complete live band with sax, drums, bass, guitar, key players dressed fly in black suits hit their instruments. Back vocals appeared on scene, both dressed in black suits, hitting their tamborines. And there he was, finally for a packed AB to see, in the flesh, dressed in a sun-yellow suit with black glasses: Mr Raphael Saadiq.
Exhibit: (Mr Saadiq, flaunting it!)
For the next 90 minutes or so, the band, backings and Mr Saadiq gave their àll. That yellow blazer flew quickly in a corner of the stage, followed by his glasses later on followed by his white shirt to reveale a very fit upper body. What? Honest is honest. And it really was hot in there! He performed mostly songs from his last album and added his classic Lucy Pearls to his track list. Re-appeared twice back on stage for his Encore and the night ended with an insane crowd singing a capella, that ultimate beautiful classic song:
‘Let the sunshine in’ topped off with the band, throwing a final jam session.
Exhibit: (Mr Bacon, Killin’ It!)
Now… Polaroid wise it was tricky. I was standing right in front of him:
Exhibit. (Myself, sweating it!)
And there weren’t so many digital cams as I expected and because his performance is visual eye candy for me I could not help myself and started to snap some pictures while he was performing, so I figured, he should have noticed me at least once.. I normally prefer not to, especially because the result can be very poor, even worse if the artist moves a lot and you waste a lot of film, but with Polaroid officially back in production and a possible chance of not having a Polaroid at all, since we officially had no backstage connection, I started snapping away…
And my personal favorite:
All good and well, but…at the end of the day, I need a picture where he looks straight ànd voluntarily in MY lense. For me and me alone. (Allow me to be selfish in this matter) So when he was overwhelmed by people asking to sign his CD and numerous concerttickets, he took a seat and did exactly that. Nòw he was sitting in front of me while singing.
Exhibit: (Jules and I working it! while Mr Saadiq signing it!)
(Picture © Salvatore!)
After taking at least 10 pictures during the concert, only inches separated from him, there was still no reaction to my Polaroid. None. Zip. Zero. Nada. Which is, if you keep the re-tweet in mind, very, very odd…. I gently touched his knee with my finger that pushed a little on it, (it feels so psycho to do that in the first place so, it was physically the best I could do, people) but he did not respond and continued signing, numerous tickets. But, I must say, he did not really look in nobody’s eyes, which is a typical artist trick, so… And then he left and immediately when the band followed him afterwords, the velvet curtains closed behind them.
There you have it. Twitter or not. NO POLAROID. But…very quickly we noticed entourage, I presume a tour manager was talking to some girls to our right. He was also dressed in a black suit and I must admit (very) cute. Or maybe it’s the suit. I don’t know. Just when he was about to disappear behind the curtains we managed to draw his attention and asked him to come. My iTouch ready, I quickly explained my demand, he looked attentive at the pictures, looked up and said: “Wow, cool! Wait here, don’t go anywhere” and disappeared back behind the curtains. Jules and I looked at each other.
We knòw that this still means nothing, we’ve been here before, he might not come back and he might leave us standing there. But… He didn’t. He came back with an official voucher that gave us authorisation to go backstage and asked us to wait in the lounge until we would be escorted backstage. So we did. Again, the occurring events reminded us off that night with Q-tip. We were waiting in the lounge accompanied by security, some invites from the tour managers and 4 other girls.
And then, it was time. Jules and I immediately went upstairs, escorted by the security. We entered the AB backstage area and felt right at home. We’ve been here before. We immediately were greeted by BJKemps aka the gentleman backing vocal and he offered us a drink while we shook hands with that amazing guitar player Rob Bacon. Drummer Calvin had trouble opening his Corona and I was happy and (a bit proud) that I could open his bottle with my lighter. I felt really tough doing that. And also a bit relieved I pulled it off so fluently. Key-player Daniel changed outfits in the meantime and went from black tie to jeans and a black “Jesus love me ànd my tattoos” t-shirt and we discussed his tattoos. Tattoos are a great icebreaker. (Both me and Jules forgot to take a picture of the band and this amazing T-shirt and we sincerely apologise but in our defense, we were so hard focused on Raphael and a possible Pola result that we didn’t. I know. Shame, shame, shame!)
We sat quietly on the orange sofa and let the four other girls entertain the band. We were very eager to join their cosy conversation but we were there with a goal and had our eyes secretly on Raphael Saadiq’s artist lodge where we could see him moving from time to time. But it was obvious he was busy and in lovely female company. Don’t bother asking me for details, ’cause quite frankly, it is simply not my business. The other girls that were waiting for Raphael got bored after a while and asked us “if he was about the come out or what!?” We told them, that we didn’t know that for sure and tried to explain that the fact that they are even allowed in this backstage area raises the chance A LOT and suggested they should wait for their picture, and that he will come out, eventually.
Patience is bless. And we both smiled, very zen at them. They looked at us with little eyes, a little suspicious and asked: “How come you are so sure of all this, how do you knòw this?” I carefully responded: “Well, I must admit, this is not the first time we are here” Silence. I could see them thinking. Haha. I think we were sitting there for about a full 40 minutes and still no Raphael. All of a sudden the girls decided to take initiative and went straight for his lodge. Quickly security told them they could not go any further. They returned to us and asked: “What is it with him??! Is he so busy? Is he there with a girl or something? Like Jules and I had all the answers? We gently shrugged our shoulders and said: ‘Well…you know…dunno…’ They decided not to wait àny longer and left. Again…patience is bless.
Now it was only me and Jules, some band and tour members. Pérfect. Less factors that can disturb our main goal. And rìght after those girls left he came out. He changed his suit for comfy baggy jeans, warm Ugg-ish boots and an awesome ZOO YORK hoodie topped of with a scarf. Casual but still in style. I must say. He came to our direction, smiled and politely shook our hands. I could explain my project in all peace and quiet and he reacted positively to my pictures. I suggested a nice warm yellow wall to take the picture and he had no problem with that. He listened to what I was looking for in the pictures,
Exhibit: (Me, shaking it while Mr Saadiq, again, flaunting it)
3.2.1. Flashing. Lights. Bingo.
And right after I took the first picture, a blond girl with a big smile that was apparently observing the shoot bursted out enthousiasticly: “YOU are the Polaroid chick! The one on twitter today! I saw you front row, glad to see you eventually made it!” She took me off guard and I was immediately shy and mumbled some strange words. But..I noticed that there were still no bells ringing with Raphael, so there I was thinking all the time that it was him managing his twitter, but apparently and possibly, it wasn’t him!
I shook hands with Raphael, thanked him for his cooperation and told him it meant a lot to me and suggested that he should not take too much time on coming back to Belgium since we had to wait so long. He smiled. Jules and I thanked the band for their warm welcome, clearly you could see that these were well raised, polite and very nice fellas. It reminded us so much of Q-tip and band. They have the same real, laid-back, and warm attitude. Last but not last we thanked Ricardo, for taking three minutes of his time to listen to us and to make that effort to take us backstage.
So thank you, for a great night, for good music, for a sweet voice, and for a pretty Polaroid.
PS: I knòw I am not in the position to complain or to fall over small details about this perfect night, but I must say that I went completely insane about the fact that my Polaroid has the unpredictable tendency to frame annoyingly to the right and this resulted in missing a piece of his elbows. Nòt good. I’m jùst saying!