Concert Review: Tech N9ne – The Strange Reign Tour in Toronto

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Tech N9ne continues to prove he’s one of the hardest working Hip-Hop artists there is, somehow keeping up with his seemingly never ending tour schedule while releasing three new albums in a span of less than twelve months.  He released The Storm in December of 2016, Dominion this past April, and is gearing up to release his nineteenth studio album, Strange Reign, this coming October 13th.  Along with his partner in rhyme Krizz Kaliko, Tech N9ne already owns the reputation of one of the best live performers in Hip-Hop, and he’s able to keep things fresh on every tour with his consistent output of new music.  With his latest work focusing on collaborating with artists signed to his Strange Music label, the Strange Reign Tour would see the first expansion to Tech N9ne’s Strange touring roster north of the border, with Stevie Stone joining the usual duo of Tech & Krizz on this run through Canada.

This would be Tech N9ne’s second time performing at the Phoenix Concert Theatre, after upgrading to this larger venue for his Special Effects Tour in 2015.  Before the upgrade, he spent years consistently selling out the Rockpile multiple times on every Canadian tour, and has grown his fan base every time he’s performed.  Now that he’s finally starting to bring more of his Strange Music artists across the border with him, I was expecting this to be his biggest Toronto show yet, but the tickets didn’t quite sell out with it being on a Sunday night.  It was still a pretty packed building though, and the Toronto crowd showed up early to party, as the energy levels were already high when I arrived during the local openers’ sets.

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When I got inside the venue, Robbie G was already in the middle of his set.  I had seen the Guelph, Ontario emcee hold down a headlining set on his Boom Bap Tour in Oakville the previous week, but for this set in Toronto he had some special guests with him.  He performed the Inner Outer Space song “Mind Made Up,” and had singer Emmaline there with him to sing the chorus in person.  After rocking his newest single “Do What You Do,” he brought out a group from Windsor called Nu Breed to perform a collaborative track they were working on.  He then wrapped up his set with a couple tracks over EDM beats which he didn’t perform in Oakville, a club track called “Shake” and another newish music video single, “Over Here.”

The crowd had a ton of energy for Robbie G, and the energy stayed high as host JDon hyped the crowd up between performers, tossing out free merch.  J Reno and Brad Shank of Lunatic Music Group took the stage next, and they had some rugged, underground beats that reminded me of Army of the Pharaohs, which easily got the crowd jumping.  After an energetic set, it was time for the last Canadian openers before Strange Music took over, the Kelowna, B.C. duo of Doug Crawford and Maskerade as Secret Society.  The duo had also opened for Tech on the Special Effects Tour, and they knew how to connect with his fans.  Soon it was time for Stange Music to take over, and all the DJ equipment was taken off stage so only the artists would be visible.

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Stevie Stone, along with a hypeman, came out for his first ever performance in Toronto, and yes, his voice really is as raspy in person as it sounds on his studio recordings.  While he’s released several albums with Strange Music, I wasn’t too familiar with his solo work, but songs like “Get Fucked Up” got the crowd moving.  The fans seemed to react more to his collaborations with Tech N9ne, as he dimmed the lights and sat in a chair to sing the start of his “Strangeulation Vol. II Cypher,” jumping out of the chair when the tempo picked up.  He also performed some of his collaborations with Strange Music band ¡Mayday! (who will hit Toronto on their own tour in a couple weeks), with “Dollar General” and “Forever New.”

The fans lit up their cell phones and lighters as Stevie performed what he called his favourite song, the throwback “My Remedy,” and got turned up to one of his newer features on Dominion, “Put Em On.”  After bringing great energy to the stage and getting the crowd pumped for Tech N9ne, Stevie Stone thanked the Toronto crowd, saying his first show here would not be his last.  There was a bit of a wait, but eventually the lights went dark, and it was time for Tech N9ne.

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With nineteen albums worth of music, there was no telling what Tech N9ne would perform going into this.  I would have bet that Tech & Krizz would’ve came out to their Dominion track “Drama,” but rather than start with the new music, Tech came out by himself to his 2013 single “Straight Out The Gate.”  After one verse from the high energy track, he followed up with the short interlude he’s usually used to close out shows in the past, “Stamina.”  From the usual closing track being performed near the beginning to Tech N9ne not wearing any of his trademark face paint, you could tell this was going to be a different performance from past shows.

Tech continued with his single off of The Storm, “Sriracha,” before leaving the stage for Krizz Kaliko to take over.  Krizz performed a couple of his own throwback singles, “Anxiety” and “Spaz,” with Tech returning during the latter track and transitioning smoothly into a classic they both appear on, 2009’s “Dysfunctional.”  The crowd responded well to the older hit, and got a mosh pit going as they went back to 2006 with “Riot Makers.”  Tech took it back even further to 2001 with his song “Einstein,” the crowd chanting along to the Kansas City anthem, and then Tech returned to this current decade with the intro track off of The Storm, “Godspeed.”

After performing some more standout verses from songs post-2010 like “Who Do I Catch” and “B.I.T.C.H.,” Tech N9ne let Krizz Kaliko take over again.  Joined by his wife on stage for backing vocals, Krizz Kaliko got into some groovy pop songs off his 2016 album Go, performing “Outta Line” and “Talk Up On It” while dancing with his wife.  It was cool to see Krizz’ versatility, switching seamlessly between rapid-fire raps to soulfully sung pop vocals.  Krizz then left the stage for Tech N9ne to take over again, as Tech danced across the stage while rapping all three verses to “He’s A Mental Giant,” before getting into another throwback with “Industry Is Punks.”

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Next was a familiar routine from both Tech & Krizz, but with some new additions.  With Krizz Kaliko as his hypeman, Tech N9ne would perform his rapid-fire verses from “Midwest Choppers 2” and “Worldwide Choppers,” except this time they preceded the usual routine with Krizz’ verse from the original “Midwest Choppers,” and afterwards added both Krizz’ and Tech’s final verse from 2015’s “Speedom (WWC2).”  I was a bit let down when they didn’t perform “Speedom” on the 2015 Special Effects Tour, but they fully redeemed themselves this time, incorporating the new track smoothly into their “Choppers” segment.

Krizz & Tech took turns performing solo again, with Krizz continuing the rapid-fire pace with 2012’s “Kill Shit,” and Tech N9ne returning with a track from the same year, “E.B.A.H.”  They then took some time to acknowledge some of their sales milestones over the next couple songs, as they haven’t been known to be chart-topping stars over the years, but have earned a few plaques recently.  They performed the gold-certified single “Fragile,” Krizz doing an awesome job nailing Kendall Morgan’s high notes on the chorus, followed by the platinum-certified “Caribou Lou,” with a couple cups of the actual drinks being brought on stage for them to celebrate.

They then teased some choruses from some of their 2001 and 2002 throwbacks, seeing if the crowd could catch on to them.  The Toronto crowd easily passed the test, chanting the choruses accapella, and eventually gave a strong chant for the 2009 song “Areola.”  With Krizz Kaliko’s wife in the building, they neglected to get into that part of the show that inspires young ladies to take their tops off, and instead did one last performance of the club track “Hood Go Crazy,” with the whole Strange family joining Tech & Krizz on stage to dance.  Rather than do an encore, Tech & Krizz headed straight to the merch booth to sign autographs.

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Overall, this show was a toned down version of what we’re used to seeing from Tech N9ne, but it was still a fun time.  He didn’t wear his usual face paint, didn’t invite any fans to join him on stage, and the ladies didn’t go topless, but he still attacked the mic like a beast and got the Sunday night crowd energized!  The hyper-sexualized songs in his set list were removed in favour of mosh pit anthems that kept the crowd hyped, and there was a good balance between the older throwbacks and the newer songs (although Tech didn’t perform anything from 2017).  With so much material to choose from, Tech N9ne still managed to touch on at least ten of his nineteen albums.

Krizz Kaliko put on a dope performance too, and it was a cool change of pace when he got into his new pop-flavoured songs off of his Go album.  As usual, his higher pitched vocals complement Tech N9ne’s gruffness perfectly, and the duo’s synergy with their choreography comes second nature with all the years of touring behind them.  It would have been cool to see Stevie Stone join them on stage to perform some of their collaborations together, but his absence didn’t take away from the show at all.  As Strange Music’s fan base continues to grow north of the border, it will be exciting to see how much the tours can expand in terms of the artists joining Tech N9ne on his travels.

 

 

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