DE LA SOUL as part of BEER FEST at Exhibition Place, Friday, July 26. Rating: NNN
De La Soul have been performing together for 26 years. Now in their 40s, Pos, Dave and Maseo have more grey in their beards and hulk in their frames, but they still spit that positivity with energy and a sense of humour. "Even though I don't drink beer, I want y'all to have a great time," Pos told us. They also mentioned just how pleased they were that we chose them over seeing Justin Bieber, who also had a show in town that night.
It's easy to focus on the group's Native Tongues collective heyday and their highly influential debut, 3 Feet High And Rising, but Friday night was a good reminder of how many hits the Long Island trio actually has. The three rotated around the stage - alternating who was playing DJ - while working through a tight, just-over-an-hour set of their greatest hits including Oooh!, All Good?, Me, Myself And I and Buddy. They weren't exactly bounding around, but they had dance backup from the mass of people flooding the stage - showing a lot less screwface than a usual Toronto rap show (I think the hours of beer sampling may have had something to do with it). Their hook singing was at times flat, but the sound system made up for it: a couple of songs in, the bass suddenly kicked into overdrive. It felt like it was piercing through my body, and I could literally see my jacket vibrate.
Playing a festival where music is secondary to beer is risky, but there were genuinely gangs of De La fans who knew every single word, and even in that critical last hour of serving, the crowd was able to tear itself away from the taps.