Todd Snider, Ben Harper and Raphael Saadiq at XPN’s NonComm 2011

Portland-native singer-songwriter Todd Snider has been releasing music since 1994, when I was only 6 years old! So why was this event the first time I had ever seen/heard of this guy? I don’t know, but I sure am glad I finally got the chance. His blend of Americana, country, and folk rock style made for a very entertaining performance. Not only does he know how to work the acoustic guitar and harmonica duo, he also knows how to work a crowd and have everyone laughing between and during his songs.

His latest release, a double disc live album, is called The Storyteller and combines numerous live versions of his songs with stories from those live performances to tie it all together.

After listening to his studio album, The Excitement Plan, and managing to not hit the skip button at any point during, I found myself desperately wishing I could return to that live performance, as these recorded tracks were unable to capture and measure up to it. I’m about to go and check out The Storyteller, in hopes that all of my worries will be solved and that it’s enough to hold me over until his next visit to the area.

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Todd Snider

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Fast forward to the next afternoon to a special NonComm Free at Noon double header with Ben Harper and Raphael Saadiq.

I’ve been hearing good things about Ben Harper for years, but just never got around to checking out his music. This made Friday afternoon’s performance a perfect situation for me. I love hearing a band/artist’s music for the first time live. I mean, if you can’t hack it live, what the heck are you doing making music?

He had some excited fans in the audience, for sure. They couldn’t seem to contain themselves when he finally graced the stage. I was even told by a nearby fan that I should check out his latest album, Give Till It’s Gone, which contains two co-written songs with Ringo Starr – “Spilling Faith” and “Get There From Here.” While I haven’t taken her up on that advice yet, I sure am planning on it. How can I not after that tid bit of information?

Harper’s passion and intensity made this short performance a real treat. I thoroughly enjoyed watching and listening to every song that he performed. He alternated between his lap steel guitar and electric guitar, keeping everyone guessing as to which direction he would take next. I was sad to see him go when his set was over, and I can now say without a doubt that I am a Ben Harper fan.

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Ben Harper

My friend, and TSI regular, David Turcotte has been raving about Raphael Saadiq for for several weeks now, due to his latest album, Stone Rollin’, which was released at the end of March of this year. Recorded in LA and co-produced by longtime collaborator Chuck Brungardt, Saadiq played most of the instruments for the majority of the recordings. Well, lucky for all who came out to The Queen, we got to see him bring his music to life with a large, fun, and excellent backing band.

Again, I was unfamiliar with this singer/songwriter from Oakland, CA. After all of the hype, both from David and other online media sources, my bar was set high, and I was really hoping Saadiq would deliver and not let me down.

Well, he sure did deliver!

From his huge goofy grin to just an overall energetic stage presence, Saadiq showed everyone a good time with his soulful bluesy rock vibe. He had fans dancing and clapping with such enthusiasm I almost forgot that it was only about 1:00 in the afternoon. What a great way to start off your day. With all of the members of his large backing band on stage and the packed downstairs of World Cafe Live, it sure did feel like a party. I’m not sure that listening to his recordings will do him justice, but I’m going to give them a chance anyway.

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Raphael Saadiq

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