Arguably Canada’s best MC, Shad is back with another big-time event: a concert at the revered Massey Hall to celebrate 10 years of being a professional artist. Shad has come a long way; using the winnings from a talent competition to record his debut album When This Is Over in 2005, winning a Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year in 2011 for TSOL, and most recently replacing Jian Ghomeshi as the host of CBC Radio’s “Q“. This was more than just a typical concert, this was a celebration of the first decade of music from one of Canada’s greatest Hip-Hop artists.
Massey Hall is a historical venue in downtown Toronto, with a capacity of almost 3,000 people. The only other time I was here was in 2013 to see J. Cole and Wale on the What Dreams May Come Tour. The stage has lots of space for live bands and visuals, and the venue puts the show on a much larger scale than when I saw Shad at The Danforth Music Hall a little over a year ago. Despite the grandiose feel going into this show, Shad made it so that everyone got their tickets for about $20, no matter where their seats were located (note: the Live At Massey Hall series always prices tickets at $18.94).
I was late getting to the venue, and by the time I met up with my crew and we found our seats, the opener Zaki Ibrahim was already almost halfway through her set. She had some cool Pop/RnB songs with a full live band, and she even played her own MPC, drum and cow bell(?). We spent a lot of the time during her set getting drinks in the bar though, and pretty soon it was time for an intermission until Shad’s set. Massey Hall is a really organized venue, with strict set times and staff to make sure no one recorded the performances (they had a professional crew taking pictures and filming a video). While they didn’t want anyone filming or using their phones at all, I chose to be a rebel and get at least one video from my own point of view for you guys (and a few pics).
After intermission, a full band formed on stage with a drummer, guitarist, bass player, keyboardist, a trumpet player, and DJ T.Lo. They built up the beat for a classic Shad track, “Compromise” off of his The Old Prince album, which Shad used to set the show off nicely before giving “Rose Garden” (off TSOL) a unique introduction starting with the keys. Shad kept going through his albums, moving on to 2013’s Flying Colours by performing “Stylin'”, and bringing out Saukrates to sing the hook. Having Saukrates there to perform with Shad brought that extra energy out of the crowd, as all three levels of Massey Hall got turned up.
Shad continued to alternate between his albums, going back to 2010 with “A Good Name”, forward to 2013 with a dramatic performance of “Progress Part 1: American Pie”, and then back to 2007 with “Brother Watching”. The band really gave the production on these songs an extra edge, but then they took a break and left the stage to just Shad and DJ T.Lo. Shad performed “Love Means” next, and Eternia made a surprise appearance to perform her verse, both of them taking turns getting reactions out of the crowd. Next, Shad built up the crowd’s energy as the band rejoined him on stage and got into the classic “I Don’t Like To”. This was followed up by a 2012 track off Melancholy of the Infinite Shadness, “It Ain’t Over”.
The live instruments really stood out on “It Ain’t Over”, with each one getting its shine on that beat. Next, the instrumentation was stripped down as Shad got into “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home”, nailing the first verse with his band and then getting the crowd to clap the beat for the acapella second verse. After the quiet acapella, Shad and the band turned the energy up again with “Keep Shining”, getting everyone to wave their hands before jumping back into his Flying Colours album with “Fam Jam” and “Dreams”. I remember the building felt like it was shaking during the rowdy “Fam Jam”.
Next, Shad picked up his guitar and did a throwback off When This Is Over: “Rock To It”. I’ve seen this act many times before, but it’s always amazing to see Shad rap while simultaneously playing the guitar during this song. Shad put away his guitar after the song was over, but the band continued with another guitar-heavy track, “We, Myself and I”. The crowd was turned up again, with everyone waving their hands during the chorus.
It was time for Shad to wrap up his set, as he performed his final song with his big Flying Colours hit, “Remember To Remember”. The show wasn’t quite over yet though; while the band had left the stage for the night, Shad and DJ T.Lo returned for an encore! T.Lo played a track off of their collaborative EP together, Boarding Pass, and Shad spit his verses to “Hang On”. Next, DJ T.Lo left and Shad was on his own to spit some acapella raps. Some fans were shouting to get his attention from the third level, but Shad strategically lowered his microphone so that people had to be quiet and listen to his bars. I couldn’t tell where his verse was from, if it was from a song at all, but he did quickly explain a Michael Jackson punchline by saying “I wrote that when he was alive”. This was lyricism at its finest.
Shad left the stage to a standing ovation, and may have even been able to do a second encore if Massey Hall didn’t have a strict curfew. Overall, it was an awesome show, with yet a different set list from the other times I’ve seen Shad perform. It was great seeing Shad headline a show in such a large, historical venue like Massey Hall. The large crowd and the live band made this one special, and it was also great seeing Saukrates and Eternia join Shad on stage again. I was surprised he didn’t perform one of his most well-received tracks, “Yaa I Get It”, or more of his When This Is Over album for its 10-year anniversary, but I’ve come to learn that Shad is an artist who will do as he feels.
UPDATE: Here is Massey Hall’s official video from the concert:
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