J-LIVE with JAGUAR WRIGHT and DIVINE BROWN at the the Bandshell (Exhibition Place), September 3. Tickets: free. Attendance: 600. Rating: NNN
If J-Live raps at the CNE and no one's around to hear him, does he make a sound? This was the big question when the uptown-Manhattan-raised independent MC opened his set not long after Andreena Mill 's worthy showcase.
Not that the Bandshell benches were completely deserted at sundown, but it was definitely the kind of thing where the number of people who were there to sit outweighed the J-Live fans - a smallish cluster of folks in long T-shirts keeping the stage at a safe distance several metres away.
I'd say the low turnout was sad, but it would have been much more depressing had J been doing anything new. His delivery of his own classic material - The Best Part and One For The Griot included - was impassioned, for sure, but this was almost the exact same set he did four years ago at the Reverb. He's not tired of his own stage show by now?
And unfortunately, when he took over for his DJ and redid what was one of the peaks of the 01 show - his simultaneous beat juggling and MCing to Braggin' Writes - his swift hands were completely blocked by the wall of amps, shielding him from every angle.
By nighttime, a healthier audience had made its way past the Ex's Ferris wheel and cotton candy kiosks to catch his last couple of songs. One of these, off his forthcoming album, The Hear After (Penalty/Ryodisc), about the U.S. education system (J-Live doubles as a grade school English teacher), sounds like the kind of substantial track he's built a career on. And his accelerating flow on Them That's Not was just as astounding as it was four years ago.
After some slightly nervous time-filling by local comedian/MC/human beatbox Subliminal , Jaguar Wright came out to what had become, finally, a large audience.
"There's a huge spotlight in my face, blinding me," she said, an autumn chill blowing through the air. "I'd like to be able to see some people."
Then, lights dimmed, Jaguar and her four-piece band knocked said people out with an R&B explosion that was like that Jay-Z Unplugged cameo five times over.
So soulful, man.