The tradition continues! As one of Canada’s greatest Hip-Hop artists, Shad continues his streak of performing in Toronto at least once a year. In past years we’ve seen him perform in all kinds of settings, ranging from revered music halls like Massey Hall, to headlining festivals like NXNE, to filling up small nightclubs like the Mod Club. This time, Shad would be doing a free show in a small courtyard in the middle of the financial district downtown.
This show came up as a surprise, as I found out about it less than 24 hours before it went down. Apparently First Canadian Place is celebrating Canada’s 150th anniversary by putting on a series of free concerts in the park every Wednesday or Thursday until the end of July (peep the full lineup here). Dubbed the weekly In The Park concert series, iconic Canadian artists perform in the small courtyard between two skyscrapers just around when the workers inside those buildings are leaving for the day. It’s timed perfectly to be a fun bit of entertainment before having dinner and preparing for another day at work.
DJ Famou$ Players spun some dance tunes as workers from the surrounding buildings and students from the nearby Ryerson University and University of Toronto slowly filled the square. Just for showing up, you could enter a ballot to win tickets to go to the Wayhome Music Festival up in Barrie next month, which Shad performed at last year. Eventually hosts from the Morning Show on Indie 88.1 FM came out on stage to introduce Shad, reminding the crowd of that time when he won a Juno Award for Rap Recording of the Year, in the same year Drake was also first nominated. Shad then came out with his whole band set up behind him on the small, crowded stage, with two guitarists, a drummer, a keyboardist, a trumpet player, and DJ T.Lo.
It’s been a few years since Shad last released a full-length rap album, as he spent the last year releasing and promoting a pop-rock album under the name Your Boy Tony Braxton. Since he hasn’t been making much noise on the Hip-Hop scene lately, it’s no surprise that Shad’s set list would be real similar to the last few times I’ve seen him perform. In fact, this show started off exactly like the last show he did in Toronto, with a mellowed down version of the Intro off of his Flying Colours album, followed by “Hang On” and “Compromise.”
Positive vibes filled the park as Shad performed hits like “Rose Garden” and “Stylin,” getting the crowd to slowly go from mellow to turned up. He did something slightly new when performing “Yaa I Get It,” rapping his wordplay-filled verses over the instrumental from Kanye West’s “Famous,” then having the band play an original tune for the final verse. The trumpet player then got to perform a solo, as the vibes of his jazzy style of play really fit the calm, outdoor setting. This then turned into a performance of the ten-year-old classic “I Don’t Like To.”
The crowd participation was on point, as we danced to “Fam Jam,” and knew to clap the beat to the last verse on “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home” without Shad even having to ask. The routines were familiar but fun, as Shad got the crowd to wave their hands during “Keep Shining” and “We, Myself and I.” He then closed out the show with a performance of “Remember to Remember,” with DJ T.Lo chopping up the turntables during the bridge of the song, and the crowd clapping out the beat once again for the final verse. DJ Famou$ Players then took over by spinning some more dance tunes as Shad and the band left the stage.
While diehard fans may have liked to hear a preview of some new music, it was still a very satisfying, fun 45-minute set filled with all the familiar classics. It was also a more stripped-down performance than what we’re used to seeing from Shad, as regular guest appearances from collaborators like Saukrates and Eternia were nowhere to be seen. Last year, Shad released the documentary film Hip-Hop Evolution, which took us through the entire history of Hip-Hop music, and so it only makes sense that he’d go back to its roots with a performance out In The Park.
If you missed your chance to see Shad perform for free in Toronto, he’s also doing a free performance in Hamilton this Friday (June 30th) as part of the Tall Ships Festival (details here)!
Remember to check out the SYpherSights Youtube channel for more concert videos.