I told you so. Run The Jewels are back in Toronto, filling up an even bigger venue than the last time they were here (not counting the free show they had in Dundas Square during the NXNE Festival). They have released a new album that’s longer and could potentially be more successful than the first one. Their consistent growth as a hip-hop duo has been glorious to witness, as they continue to grow their fan base and dominate the landscape.
The last time Killer Mike and El-P headlined their own show in Toronto, they had an intimate performance at The Hoxton, each performing solo sets before getting on stage together as Run The Jewels. Even though it was a small nightclub, it was still one of the best shows I went to last year. This time, they sold out the larger Danforth Music Hall, where I’ve seen concerts by Shad & Brother Ali, Pusha T, and Cam’ron earlier in 2014. I was excited to see Run The Jewels perform for the third time within the past year and a half, because this time they would have new material with the recent release of RTJ2 (read my album review here).
The scheduled opening acts were supposed to be Ratking and Despot, however there was a fire on the tour bus and they were unable to make it to the show. Instead, DJ Memorex (I hope I got his name right) came out and made some live beats on an MPC. His beats were pretty cool, the most notable one using samples from The Legend of Zelda. After rocking the crowd for a good half hour with his own beats, he played some classic hip-hop tracks as we waited for Run The Jewels to arrive.
Instead of performing solo sets like last year, Run The Jewels came out together with the same routine from their NXNE performance; Queen’s “We Are The Champions” played as they took the stage, and then they dove right into their first song, “Run The Jewels”. The crowd got immediately turned up with the mosh pit in full effect. After the first song, Killer Mike & El-P took the time to explain how their tour bus caught on fire and how they had to catch a last-minute flight to Toronto in order to make it to the show. They then got into some high-energy tracks from both Run The Jewels albums, and the mosh pit stayed active the entire time.
Everyone kept jumping and playfully pushing each other as Run The Jewels performed “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”, “Banana Clipper”, “Blockbuster Night Part 1”, and “36” Chain”. They continued with the slightly more mellow “DDFH” and “Sea Legs”, although the crowd remained energetic with crowd-surfers flying across the front rows of fans. Next, they performed “Tougher, Colder Killer” (without Despot) off El-P’s Cancer 4 Cure album, but El-P cut the track to allow a young lady on stage before security could kick her out.
What happened next was pretty funny: Mike encouraged her to get ready to stage dive, while El-P told her not to do it because he didn’t want to be responsible for her getting hurt (the mosh pit seemed way too wild up to this point). They got ready to perform “Lie, Cheat, Steal”, and the girl jumped as the beat came on; she seemed to be okay as the crowd caught her. After that performance, they decided to tone it down a bit, Mike making a comment that this was like a zumba workout for both himself and the crowd. They performed “Early”, but then got right back into the high-energy tracks with “Close Your Eyes (And Count To F**k)” and “Get It”.
Mike and El-P did a couple more tracks off the new album with “All Due Respect” and “Love Again” before wrapping things up with the outro to their first album, “A Christmas F**king Miracle”. Even though the closing track was the most mellow one yet, the crowd was still energetic, with a very strong chant for an encore. Mike and El-P obliged, coming back out to perform the outro off the new album, “Angel Duster”. As the beat played them out at the end, they dedicated their performance to Mike Brown (Killer Mike’s speech regarding the grand jury’s verdict has gone somewhat viral) and clapped hands with the fans in the front row before walking off stage.
Overall, I think Killer Mike and El-P have topped themselves again, as this was one of the best shows of 2014. While their performance was great as usual, it was the crowd that really made this a special night. Contrary to the last concert I reviewed, this crowd really lived in the moment. Not many people had their phones out because everyone was participating in the mosh pit – and doing it properly. No one got hurt or knocked to the ground, and even a lot of women were taking part in the playful pushing and jumping. The crowd surfing seemed to be done safely too, with fans being carried side to side moreso than front to back. I don’t think I witnessed any fights, which usually tend to happen with this level of energy.
Mike and El-P commanded the crowd masterfully, getting everyone to clap, wave and shout when the song called for it. It was sometimes hard to hear their actual rapping over the noisy crowd, but this didn’t matter because everyone seemed to know all the songs. The Run The Jewels chants, hand symbols and sense of unity among fans were prominent enough to remind me of a typical Wu-Tang show. Mike and El-P should really be proud of themselves and the way they’ve been able to establish a strong movement. On a final note, the Danforth Music Hall was an excellent venue as usual, especially with the building being fully packed with fans who know how to party.
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