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R. Jeanette Martin
Absolut Makerfest. 99 Sudbury, August 9
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R. Jeanette Martin
THEOPHILUS LONDON with SIR LANCELOT and Q-TIP at 99 Sudbury, Saturday, August 9. Rating: NNN
Make a concert free, give out plenty of drink tickets, and it will be popping. Absolut Vodka figured that out, and a long line of RSVPers snaked down Sudbury before the Absolut Makerfest event Saturday night.
Spotted wandering the venue before his set time, New York rapper/singer Theophilus London was on performance duty. He took his sweet time, letting Toronto MC/hype man Sir LanceLot do the heavy lifting before finally appearing about an hour behind schedule. But that prep time was well spent. Once he emerged, London proved an engaging performer, passionately spitting and showing off some impressive pipes.
The back room of 99 Sudbury is a nice venue even if lineups at the bar were as hairy as they were in the main room. And all those revellers made for a pumped-up, spirited crowd. Although most people were definitely more stoked to see A Tribe Called Quest emcee Q-Tip DJ into the wee hours, the room was rammed for London, who definitely earned some new fans.
RLMDL, SEXY MERLIN, VALERIE DOUR and BODY BUTTER at the Theatre Centre, Thursday, August 7. Rating: NNN
Over the last few years, the musical component of the annual SummerWorks theatre festival has become an integral element, consistently boasting a strong lineup of cutting-edge local acts. This season, the entire concert series has been curated by Toronto music blog and concert promoters Silent Shout, and the opening night party was particularly representative of the quirky synth pop they often focus on.
Campy new-wave soul duo Body Butter kicked things off with a lot of energy, and vocalist Neil Rankin's pink silk bathrobe was easily the best stagewear of the night. In comparison, the hazy shoegaze references of both Valerie Dour and RLMDL sounded especially sleepy, although they did manage to get a few members of the audience dancing. Too bad it wasn't until the final act, Sexy Merlin, came on that someone thought to turn down the bright lights to make it feel more like a club show, which definitely suited his experimental house jams.
JOHN LEGEND at the Molson Amphitheatre, Friday, August 8. Rating: NNN
At a John Legend concert, entry is swift and hassle-free, lines are short, and the setting sun turns the sky an impossible shade of dusty mauve. It's also where everybody in a sorta-full amphitheatre gets to actually sit down for most of the show and the singer appears at the piano at 8:30 on the dot to casually croon Made To Love, from his latest album.
Stardom becomes Legend, who is totally at ease onstage. He occasionally stepped away from the piano to get some mild exercise. But whether sitting at the piano or standing at the mic, his voice is full and rich - outstandingly good. Also great: his backing band, which included a string quartet.
The show lagged occasionally during boring songs like Good Morning or uninteresting interpretations, like his rendition of the Beatles' Something. But mostly he kept the lovers spellbound and swaying. Eyes were moist, hands were held, hearts were touched. His best moments found him revelling in his own hit catalogue: Ordinary People, Used To Love U, Who Do We Think We Are and a short but sweet solo encore featuring his ubiquitous radio hit All Of Me.
NUE with BO$QUIAT CLIQUE and FAIZA as part of THE KNOWN UNKNOWN at the Rivoli, Sunday, August 10. Rating: NNN
Curated by Tika Simone, The Known Unknown is a recurring Toronto showcase of mostly unheralded local talent.
Sunday night's edition featured Scarborough emcee Nue in the headlining spot. If the crowd isn't familiar with your repertoire, rap isn't always the easiest genre for winning over new fans in the live arena. Turns out most of the Rivoli was; more than a few men and women were rapping along, iPhone videoing with big goofy grins in a "That's my dude!" typa way. Awesome.
But the rapper is fully capable of playing to strangers, too.
You can definitely hear the Drake/Wayne influence, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. There's also a Danny Brown-like raggedness to his delivery.
Catchphrase-heavy, singalong-friendly songs - Outrageous (emphasis on the "geous"), Alicia and Bitch, Get High, in particular - made for a short, sweet set. Kind of unsettling screen projections of a red forest, plus Nue's climbing-the-speakers-level energy added to the drama.
Every talent showcase has hits and misses. But other highlights? The palpable enthusiasm of Bo$quiat Clique, and R&B singer Faiza, whose charisma was almost overshadowed by two extremely on-point throwback-R&B-style backup dancers.