Concert Review: Shad at Mod Club in Toronto

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It has to happen at least once a year; all-time Canadian great, Shad, has come back to Toronto to put on a show!  2015 saw Shad do some large shows, filling up the revered Massey Hall and having headlining sets at Toronto’s NXNE and Burlington’s Sound of Music festivals, and now he’s taking things back to his roots with a couple smaller club shows.  He’s still been hosting CBC Radio’s q full time, but is taking a break to get back to music and perform at the Mod Club, as well as in his hometown London, Ontario this weekend.  In a recent interview with The Come Up Show he also gave a subtle hint that he’s working on new music, and even released a new song with DJ Skratch Bastid this week.  Besides a handful of guest verses, Shad hasn’t released any musical projects since 2014’s Boarding Pass EP with DJ T.Lo.

Even with a few years of reviewing concerts under my belt, this would surprisingly be my first time going to the Mod Club, one of the spots Shad performed at during the early stages of his career.  Mod Club really is an appropriate name for the venue, as it’s moderate in size and can easily get filled to capacity (as it would be for this sold-out show).  I have to give a big shoutout to Shad’s management for hooking me up with a press pass for this show; I showed up about an hour after doors had opened and pretty soon it was time for the opening act, Emay.

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Emay is a local artist from Hamilton, Ontario, with a very lyrical, socially conscious style to his Hip-Hop.  The crowd didn’t really turn up for his set because they seemed so focused on listening to Emay’s rhymes and the messages in his songs.  He had a straight to business approach, going right into his songs and only pausing to let the crowd know that he produces most of his beats himself, and to promote his upcoming album.  His songs had some pretty cool samples, and rather than having hooks to chant along to, he likes to just let the sample breathe between his verses.  After a solid forty-minute set, Emay left the stage to applause and Shad’s band started to get their gear set up.

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DJ T.Lo warmed the crowd up by playing the new song Shad released this week, “Limoncello,” along with the song it was inspired by, “Luchini” by Camp Lo.  The band got themselves set up, and Shad came out to a mellow version of his Flying Colours intro, with a new, unheard verse over the same beat.  Things got turned up pretty quickly as they got into the more energetic “Hang On” off of Boarding Pass, followed by the classic “Compromise.”  The latter track had a smooth transition into “Rose Garden,” during which Shad yelled out “remix!” and spat an alternate second verse for the song.

Next was my favourite song of Shad’s, “Stylin’,” and although it’s become routine for Saukrates to come out and sing the chorus whenever they’re in Toronto, he wasn’t around for this show.  Shad actually did a solid job singing the hook in Saukrates’ place, and the crowd helped him out of course.  He then moved on to “Good Name” before calming the crowd down for the slow build-up in the epic “Progress Part 1: American Pie.”  The next couple songs had some special guests, starting with a violinist who came out to rock “Brother Watching” with Shad and perform a solo on his instrument.

IMG_20160624_2211052As with the last few times I’ve seen Shad perform, Eternia was in the building to perform “Love Means,” rushing the stage for the opening verse of the song and getting the crowd hyped.  Their back and forth on the chorus brought more energy out of the crowd, and after Shad mellowed it down with the last verse, he seamlessly brought the energy back up with “Yaa I Get It.”  The beat changed several times for the middle and last verses of the wordplay-filled lyrical exercise, going from Kanye West’s “Famous” to Pusha T’s “Numbers on the Boards,” to Kendrick Lamar’s “Rigimortis.”  Shad then rocked an accapella verse from a demo of a new song he had leaked earlier that day called “Chicken N Waffles,” tying together the lyrics “maybe I’m still sane ’cause I don’t blog or Twitter.”

With the last few songs being performed with just the MCs and DJ T.Lo, the band came back on stage and did some classics including “I Don’t Like To,” “Fam Jam,” and “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home.”  The smaller venue was perfect for the latter track, as the beat cuts out in the final verse and the crowd has to coordinate their claps to recreate it for Shad to rap over.  Shad and the band wrapped up the set with a few more high-energy tracks, getting the crowd to wave their hands during “Keep Shining,” “We, Myself and I,” and the bass-heavy “Remember to Remember.”

As usual when Shad performs, the crowd showed a lot of love and gave a strong enough encore chant to bring him back out for a couple more songs.  While most of his set was familiar from previous shows I’ve seen, he used the encore to try something different, performing the really laid-back “Dreams” off of Flying Colours.  He then pulled out his guitar and did the classic off of his very first album, “Rock To It,” rapping while maintaining the guitar riff.

Overall it was another fun show, and it was great seeing Shad in a smaller venue.  Shad attracts as diverse an audience as any MC I’ve seen live, with a range of different demographics, races and sexes in the crowd.  The packed house made it feel like a large show, while the smaller space made it feel more interactive.  As Shad had requested on the Facebook event page, most fans kept their phones put away and just vibed to the music.  It was fun going through all the familiar hits, and it will be exciting to hear the new music Shad has in store for fans and see which songs get incorporated into the set list next time.

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