After putting on what we called the best concert of the year in 2017, Toronto’s Festival of Beer continues to aim for bigger and better. This year they’ve expanded the festival by making it four days instead of three, and booked even more famous artists to perform at Bandshell Park. While last year’s Friday night Hip-Hop event featured a classic performance by the all-time great duo Method Man & Redman, this year would be headlined by Atlanta superstar Ludacris. This would be Luda’s first time performing in Toronto in over five years, and as a (relatively) younger MC whose style is clearly influenced by Red & Mef, it feels like a natural progression having him headline the 2018 Festival of Beer. Not to mention, he did once make an album called Chicken & Beer after all.
Ludacris has been fairly quiet on the music front in recent years, as he’s spent much of the past decade adding to his more recent Hollywood success with his prominent role in the Fast & Furious films. While he made a ton of hits and platinum-selling albums in the early 2000’s, Luda’s musical output has been scarce since 2010, only re-emerging to release his underrated Ludaversal album in 2015 before falling back to filmmaking. Not having a hit single on the radio in years may normally be seen as a negative for a star of Ludacris’ stature, but it’s actually part of what makes him a perfect fit to headline Beer Fest, as the vast majority of the fans who grew up partying to his music are now well above the legal drinking age, and there are minimal underage fans to be upset with not being able to attend this 19+ event.
With this being my third year attending Beer Fest, I knew the drill going into this. You receive a fancy beer mug upon entry, along with some tokens to use for sampling over 400 different beers to choose from. We started off with an IPA from the Old Credit Brewing Company, but eventually found our way to the glorious premium imports tent, which included Stiegl, Erdinger, and one of our favourites, Delirium Tremens. The beer connoisseur in our squad kept us here, as these strong European beers easily stand above the basic Budweisers and Coors in terms of taste, flavour, and class. Toronto’s Festival of Beer does offer all the familiarities you can find at any bar, allowing easygoing drinkers to find their comfort zone, but the real gems are those rarities that take more effort to find and taste.
The premium import beers cost more tokens than the average beer available at most tents at the festival, but they were worth it. While the light rain sprinkled on and off, we spent most of the time by the premium imports tent, taking selfies with the inflated Delirium elephant mascot while drinking their magnificent brew. Eventually, we found our way to the stage when it was time for the night’s headliner to perform, Ludacris.
With Chicken & Beer on the mind, Ludacris came out and actually started the show with that “Southern Fried” intro off of that 2003 album, his rapid-fire flows over the Isaac Hayes sample getting the crowd turned up immediately. He followed that fire intro up with his feature on Jermaine Dupri’s “Welcome To Atlanta,” and his own “Number One Spot.” Testing to see which fans in the crowd were day-ones and which only knew him from the Fast & Furious movies, he then started to perform the 2 Fast 2 Furious single “Act A Fool,” cutting the song off after the hook and calling it too easy. He then took it back to his debut album, performing “Southern Hospitality” to a thunderous reaction.
After asking the crowd how many of them were from the 416, Ludacris performed another throwback classic with “Area Codes” (RIP Nate Dogg). His longtime friend, collaborator and hypeman Lil’ Fate would then get some time the spotlight, as Luda stepped back and let him spit his verse on “Growing Pains.” The two of them would keep the crowd entertained between songs by getting one half to try being louder than the other.
Up to this point Luda had been rocking throwback hits that he was responsible for as a solo artist, but soon he would get into some of his features on other artists’ songs. He got the crowd dancing as he performed his verse and bridge from Usher’s “Yeah,” and got the ladies involved helping him perform Fergie’s “Glamorous.” Not all the crowd loved it when Luda performed an EDM track, but his defence was that it was a chart-topping hit over in Europe. Keeping up the club hits for the ladies, Luda got back to his own album cuts with “Money Maker” and “Pimpin’ All Over The World.”
Ludacris took some time to praise Canada’s progress towards legalizing marijuana, and pulled out a deep album cut with his weed smokers hit “Blueberry Yum Yum.” Getting into another throwback segment, Luda asked the crowd how many remembered his very first charting hit, and the crowd erupted as “What’s Your Fantasy” dropped. The crowd stayed turned up and chanted along to the hooks as Ludacris rocked the classic “Rollout,” and followed up with “Stand Up.” Luda then moved the clock forward and performed some of the later hits in his career, getting the ladies to dance to “How Low” and “My Chick Bad” before pulling out the party anthem, “All I Do Is Win.”
Having not even touched his most recent Ludaversal album up to this point, Luda performed a laid-back, accapella version of the rapid-fire “Intro” verse, which basically summarizes his greatness as an MC. Despite consistently killing verses with his rapid-fire flows and his booming voice, Luda may be most known for his hits and familiar hooks, and that’s the note he would close on. Cranking up the energy one last time, Luda got the crowd to shout his verse for him on “Move Bitch,” and got everyone jumping to the chaotic “Get Back.” It was an abrupt but well-timed ending to the show, as Luda left the stage right at the 11pm curfew, just as the rain and thunder was about to start.
Despite the on and off showers and overcast skies, Toronto’s 2018 Festival of Beer was another epic time. Ludacris was a perfect fit to headline the festival, with his rowdy personality keeping the party going with hit after hit. He didn’t perform much of his newer material at all, but he brought back years of memories with his older classics in true Beer Fest fashion. As usual, TFOB brought together beer lovers and music lovers for one of the best parties of the summer!
With the festival ending well before midnight, the night was still young, and Busta Rhymes & Lil’ Kim were having a late night concert over by the docks at Rebel Nightclub. A very similar artist to Ludacris in terms of hits, longevity, and hairstyles, Busta Rhymes is not an artist you pass up on whenever he’s in town. Stay tuned for the next concert review!
(UPDATE: Read the Busta Rhymes review here)
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