Concert Review: Joey Bada$$ at The Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto

Maker:S,Date:2017-1-25,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

After pulling a last-minute no-show to an already postponed concert last summer, Toronto still has not lost any love for Joey Bada$$. It’s been less than a year since he bailed on the Toronto stop for the joint All-AmeriKKKan Bada$$ / Everybody’s Tour with Logic, and Joey has already embarked on his new AmeriKKKana Tour, returning to Toronto for a sold out show at The Phoenix Concert Theatre. Not only was the show sold out, but demand to see him in Toronto is so high that a second show was booked at The Danforth Music Hall to end off the tour this Sunday (May 27).

Unless you were able to catch him at Ryerson University’s Sundown Festival last September, this would be the Toronto fans’ first time seeing him perform since he released his critically acclaimed sophomore album just over a year ago. It’s been a long wait.

I showed up to the venue about an hour and a half after doors had opened, and the building was packed with fans stuffing themselves into the dance floor like sardines. You could see the dedication some young fans had, as they waited up front by the barricade to see one of Hip-Hop’s youngest, brightest stars, not once leaving their spot to use the washroom or get a drink. While the opening performers on the tour were Boogie & Buddy, neither of them were able to make it across the Canadian border, and so Pro Era’s own Chuck Strangers came out to perform a few songs instead.

Maker:S,Date:2017-1-25,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Joey Bada$$ of course made his come up with his group Pro Era, and Chuck Strangers is both a producer for the collective as well as an MC. Even with his last-minute addition to the show’s lineup, Chuck had enough material to rock a solid half-hour set. He had songs off his debut solo album that dropped in March, Consumers Park, and also did some Pro Era tracks. I wasn’t all too familiar with his songs, but the fans were into it, waving their arms and rapping along to the songs they knew. It was a solid set with in-pocket flows over boom-bap beats.

With no other openers available to perform, there would be about an hour wait after Chuck’s set before Joey Bada$$ came out. Smoke machines and additional lighting were set up, and fans were invited to text a phone number for a chance to win tickets to the second show at the Danforth on Sunday.

Maker:S,Date:2017-1-25,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

 

When Joey Bada$$ eventually got his set started, he came out to an extended intro to the one song Chuck Strangers co-produced on his ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ album, “Rockabye Baby.” The energy was cranked up right away, with the fans waving their arms in unison and rapping along to the lyrics with Joey. Of course Joey left a gap in his opening verse so the crowd could give a loud shout of the lyrics “fuck Donald Trump!!!”. Joey then got right into the next song, “Ring The Alarm,” with the smoke machines and lighting choreographed to move with the way the beat builds up. These were my two favourite songs off the album, and Joey knocked them out right at the beginning of his set.

Continuing to hit the crowd with hit after hit, Joey next performed several songs off of his 2015 debut album, B4.DA.$$, starting with the DJ Premier-produced “Paper Trails.” While the first three songs he rocked were upbeat and got the crowd jumping, he mellowed things out with the more soulful “Hazeus View,” before building the energy back up with “Big Dusty” and “Christ Conscious.” Rocking one last song off his debut before switching things up, Joey got the crowd jumping again to his classic “No. 99,” getting everyone to shout “Badmon!” in the chorus.

After knocking out several of his classics and giving the crowd nothing but raw energy, Joey finally paused to talk to the fans for a bit. He hinted at taking it back to 1999, of course referring to his 2012 mixtape. This led him into some older joints, including a Capital STEEZ tribute with “Survival Tactics” and the more laid back “Hardknock.” Eventually, it was time for Joey to rock some more songs off of his newest album.

Maker:S,Date:2017-1-25,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

While Joey Bada$$ had already rocked the most energetic, aggressive songs off of ALL-AMERIKKKAN BADA$$, this segment of songs would capture the more soulful, heartfelt vibes of the album. Setting up the mic stand so he could engage the crowd while performing, he got started with “Temptations” before getting the crowd to sing along with him to “For My People.” After rocking his more political tracks like “Land of the Free” and “Babylon,” he closed out this segment with the last song on the album’s track list, “Amerikkkan Idol.”

Taking a moment to shoutout his tour openers who couldn’t make it across the border, and to Flatbush Zombies, who performed here just a few weeks ago, Joey then made a dedication to all those who couldn’t be there with his song “On & On,” getting the crowd to light up the room with their cell phones. This then led to a medley of loose tracks not from any of his albums, including “95 Til’ Infinity” off of his Summer Knights mixtape, a couple Statik Selektah-produced singles “500 Benz” and “Love Is Only A Feeling,” and his A$AP Ferg collaboration, “Pull Up.”

Joey Bada$$ would briefly leave the stage, causing the crowd to chant for an encore. He of course had to come back and perform the biggest hit of his career to date, “Devastated.” The crowd turned all the way up, singing along to the chorus and jumping to the beat. As with the last time I saw him perform at the 2016 Time Festival, Joey performed the hit single a second time afterwards, this time getting the crowd to light up their cell phones again as he spit the verses accapella. He then thanked the crowd and the city, dropped the mic, and jumped down to the barriers to clap hands with the fans in the front row, some showing off their vinyl records for him to sign.

Maker:S,Date:2017-1-25,Ver:6,Lens:Kan03,Act:Lar02,E-Y

Overall, this was a fun night that definitely made up for Joey’s no-show at his last concert in Toronto. It’s been a while since I’ve seen The Phoenix Concert Theatre so packed with such energetic fans. You could barely move around but it was all positive vibes, with everyone enjoying the music of the Brooklyn MC. Joey Bada$$ has come a long way in his young career, with two very successful solo albums and a bright future still ahead of him. While his show at The Danforth Music Hall on Sunday will mark the end of The AmeriKKKana Tour, Joey will continue to hit the road, flying out to Europe this summer.

 

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