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SHI WISDOM with LION BABE and KJ at Revival, Friday, May 24. Rating: NNN
The Known Unknown monthly concert series popped off Friday night at Revival, with spotlights on Toronto neo-soul star Shi Wisom, New York's Lion Babe and local emcee/producer KJ.
KJ worked the stage with an engaging, personal set. Free from rap conventions like excessive braggadocio, his confident self-exposure coupled with dreamy production make him a Toronto rapper to watch for. New York duo Lion Babe followed, visually living up to their name: singer Jillian Hervey has an impressive mane of teased rockstar hair and prowled around the stage - catlike and campy - while partner Lucas Goodman dropped beats and played guitar. Fans were waiting for their viral YouTube hit Treat Me Like Fire, but Hervey shone brightest on a tune she wrote for her younger sister, Little Dreamer.
After a long lull - disappointing considering Lion Babe's funky, psychy, dub-like neo-soul momentum - Shi appeared at 1 a.m., rocking an elaborate Banoo bow-tie headpiece and the most statement of necklaces. Her wardrobe wasn't timid, but there is a vulnerability in her stage presence that nods to her name, while also making her songs that much more accessible, credible and, well, real.
Aside from some initial sound issues (Shi's mic needed turning up), she belted impressively, particularly on Penny, LoveSpeak and Take The L.
A random between-songs stage rush by Canadian R&B singer Glenn Lewis seemed a little Kanye in nature, but he meant well: "Y'all are showing love to what's coming," he said. "Shi is that songwriter, that singer."
And like Kanye, he speaks the truth. As Shi finished her set, singing straight from the soul, giving me reverberating chills on The Mirror, blasting harmonies on Bedsheets with assistance from her backup singers, eventually eliciting calls for an encore, I felt a few emotions, overwhelmingly: somebody please give this girl a record deal.