Erykah Badu brings Soul and Positivity to Toronto [Review]
Toronto, ON – On March 5th, Erykah Badu graced Toronto with a very rare performance at the KoolHaus. By 8:30pm there was already a large crowd gathered at the front of the stage. No one wanted to miss this songstress and knew that she would give a performance that needed be seen in its entirety. Her DJ, A1 of the Cannabinoids began the evening by spinning a set of music that included joints like Ghostface’s “Cher Cher la Ghost”, “Get Em High” by Kanye West, “Chase the Devil” from Max Romeo, “One Blood” by Junior Reid, and more neo-soulful tracks like “What is This” by Slum Village.
Erykah didn’t keep us waiting, by 9:45pm she was on stage which was beautifully lit by a net of lights draped across the back wall to mimic the feeling of night sky full of stars. She came on stage wearing a cream trench coat which she later removed to reveal a very plain Jane outfit. A cheap cardigan sweater, a ripped up tee, bell shaped skirt and flower print leggings were what Erykah would refer to using a line from her song “Clever,”; “My dress ain’t cost nothing but seven dollars, but I made it fly, and I’ll tell ya why…Cause I’m Clever, When I buss a rhyme…”. True to her song, she was fly as hell and no one could care less what she wore as long as she graced us with her creativity. Read the rest of the review after the jump.
The show was initially supposed to be a Baduizm show as it was advertised, but Erykah ended up doing the entire Mama’s Gun album, to the surprise and excitement of many, including myself. To make this apparent to those who hadn’t caught on, half way into the show she said something along the lines of “So I guess you’ve noticed we’re half way into the Mama’s Gun album,” with a laugh. Although we were more than happy to hear Mama’s Gun, towards the end of the night she also performed the “Otherside of the Game” off of Baduizm and “Danger” off the Worldwide Underground.
The sound throughout the night was impeccable and the set was clearly rehearsed to the point of perfection. Backed by R.C. Williams on the keys, three vocalists, one of which was her sister Nayrok, drums, percussion and bass, the set was smooth. Erykah had a Mac laptop as well as several instruments set up around her so that she could dictate the music, and her band followed without hesitation. Singing, she would raise her arms in expression and if she felt that she needed the musicians to fall out she would signal them with the slight of her hand, sometimes with her eyes closed, and all that was left was her voice, or whatever instrument she wanted to accompany her. The gestures were so subtle and continued throughout the night allowing her to choose where she wanted certain sounds and riffs, no sounds at all, or a melody that wasn’t a part of the original track. Their communication was flawless and it let Erykah improvise what she wanted without creating pauses in the performance. Even vocal effects were planned and executed to perfection. Her loud and powerful notes were caught and reverberated over us like a wave as the music was brought to a quiet. Her wish was the command of her team and when she said “I like my shit loud!” the speakers bumped and sent a vibration rippling through every body in the venue. If you didn’t know, now you do, Erykah is a professional and a curator of music and live performance.
Upon closing the show she praised her band and introduced everyone, one by one, including a producer who we would soon discover was Rashad “Ringo” Smith of Tumblin Dice, a production duo that were in house producers for Bad Boy Records back in the 90’s. I’m sure few people knew who he was until Erykah asked him to play a few of his tracks. Back to back Rashad played hits like “Woo-Hah!!” by Busta Rhymes, LL Cool J’s “Doin’ it Well”, and Biggie’s “One More Chance”. Each song set off loud raves from the audience and when “Doin’ it Well” dropped, so did the crowd. A sea of bodies fell to the rhythm and began to rock in a harmony that connected the crowd to each other. We witnessed more than one legend that night.
After performing “Danger”, a sequel to the “Otherside of the Game” written in collaboration with Rashad and R.C., she graciously thanked the crowed, told us to “believe in our mutha fuckin selves” and sent us her love, the way we imagine the Queen of Neo-Soul would, with her hands extended. She asked us to join her and we raised our hands in return, everyone giving and receiving energy and positivity. We couldn’t have left with a better feeling.
Review written by Leandra LeGendre (@LeandraLeGendre) for HipHopCanada
Tags: Bad Boy Records, Busta Rhymes, DJ A1, Erykah Badu, Ghostface Killah, Junior Reid, Kanye West, LL Cool J, Max Romeo, Nayrok, Notorious B.I.G., R.C. Williams, Rashad "Ringo" Smith, Slum Village, The Cannabinoids, Tumblin Dice