Concert Review: Oddisee & Good Compny at The Axis Club in Toronto (2022.12.11)

Oddisee & Good Compny

Appropriately dubbed the At It Again Tour, Oddisee and his band Good Compny are back to doing what they do best. Having embarked on their first major tour since COVID-19, they’ve been hitting the road across USA and Canada throughout November and December, and have a European stretch of the tour lined up for next spring. For the Toronto fans, this show at The Axis Club would be the band’s first time in town since their appearance at the 2019 Toronto Jazz Festival, where they had a standout performance opening for Shad.

Oddisee is of course an acclaimed emcee/producer from Washington, D.C. who’s built a solid discography over more than a decade. Known for thought-provoking, relatable lyricism, along with production that translates well into his live performances with the band Good Compny backing him, Oddisee is a multi-talented artist who seems to be able to do it all. Since the last time he performed in Toronto, Oddisee quietly released a new EP in 2020 called Odd Cure, and has been gearing up to release his first full-length album since 2017, To What End, dropping in January 2023. The new album was originally supposed to be released before the tour, but with it being pushed to after the North American leg, fans were hopeful to experience the new music for the first time at these shows.

Good Compny

I got to the venue a little early to check out the scenery, as this was my first time back at The Axis Club since they had their renovations and changed the name from the previous Mod Club. The inside looked more sleek and had some large murals added to the wall portraying artists of different eras, including a ’60/’70s mural with Bob Dylan and Jimi Hendrix, an ’80s mural with Prince, a ’90s mural with 2Pac & Biggie, and one for the current era with Drake and Taylor Swift. The room slowly filled up as Oddisee’s DJ started spinning and mashing up some tracks. Before bringing out the rest of the band, the DJ would get a feel for the types of fans in the crowd, with some fans having seen Oddisee perform live before while most of the crowd made noise for this being their first time. Regardless if this was your first time seeing an Oddisee concert or if you’ve been to every show he’s done in Toronto over the years, you were in for a treat.

The DJ would introduce the rest of his Good Compny bandmates as they joined him on stage, including Jon Laine on drums, Dennis Turner on bass, and Ralph Washington on keys. Notably their guitarist Oliver St. Louis was absent, but the band was still able to rock on without missing a step, as they performed some of Oddisee’s instrumental tracks to warm up the crowd. The DJ would play some beats and have the band add their own flavour over top of it, each member getting to do a bit of a solo and add their own twist to it. They had the crowd grooving for a solid, short set, as pretty soon Oddisee would join them on stage and got the main event going.

Oddisee

Beginning with a throwback, Oddisee set it off with the appropriate “Ready To Rock,” getting the crowd to shout back at him the lyrics “yea, we ready to roll!” on the chorus. After getting that dope call-and-response on the opening track, Oddisee would keep the energy levels high with another throwback off his 2012 album, People Hear What They See, performing “That Real” with the live instrumentation adding extra flavour to it. He’d continue on into a fan favourite early into the set, performing the classic “Own Appeal” with the order of the second and third verses swapped, and getting the band to pick up the tempo for the final verse. Taking some time to talk to the crowd, Oddisee had some fun seeing who his day-one fans were, explaining that he was performing songs off of each of his albums in chronological order. Having touched on 2012 and 2013 so far, sharp fans knew that next up would be a piece from 2015’s The Good Fight, as they recognized the beat from “That’s Love” right away.

The energy was cranked for the up-tempo opening track to the album, with the crowd participation on point as fans filled in the lyrics “that’s love!” in the opening verse for Oddisee to add his flows around. Oddisee and his band continued on with a couple more songs off of The Good Fight, performing “Want Something Done” and “Meant It When I Said It,” with the band showing off some dope improvisations by changing up the beats for Oddisee to flow over. Oddisee would put all his energy into nailing his rapid-fire flows word for word with no backup, but would also take some time to slow down and talk to the crowd, recognizing some fans in the front row who’ve been to every concert he’s had in Toronto. Despite showcasing elite emceeing on stage with confidence, Oddisee remains humbled by the fans who’ve supported him for all of these years.

Oddisee & Good Compny

Keeping with the chronological order of his albums, next up would be a segment of songs from Oddisee’s 2017 release, The Iceberg. Again displaying impeccable breath control, Oddisee killed his rapid-fire verses as he performed “Like Really,” getting the crowd to fill in the chants for him and harmonizing with Ralph Washington on the chorus. He’d continue on into the upbeat “Want To Be,” except Good Compny would give him a more Funk-influenced beat to slay to, the crowd clapping along and grooving out, and Ralph shining on the keys with his own solo towards the end of the song. Oddisee would take some more time to have fun with his band, telling a story about how they once had to find a backup bass player in Toronto when Dennis got double-booked for a tour, and how Odd brought him to his uncle’s house, subtly shouting out his Canadian ties. He’d also give Ralph his props, shouting out the way he programs his keyboards to cover multiple instruments for missing band members, all while providing background vocals. When they picked it back up, the band performed one last song off of The Iceberg, doing a familiar routine with “NNGE” where they get the crowd to sing along to the chorus and Ralph & Oddisee dance at the front of the stage in their hometown’s Go-Go style during an added beat breakdown.

While most of the songs Oddisee had performed up to this point were familiar, next would be the moment many fans had wanted to see, as Oddisee would preview some of the new songs off of his upcoming album, To What End. He’d preface the segment by saying he was a little nervous to see how the new songs would go, but ended up killing it anyway, starting with the song “Try Again.” The track had a smoothly sung chorus, a beat drop that led to a Funk groove, and of course dope raps by Oddisee. With the album not yet being released, fans were left to guess if this is part of the actual song or if the band chose to do a special tribute to the city they were in, but the latter half of the track had the beat switch to a Toronto classic with k-os’ “Superstar Part Zero,” Odd even doing a cover of the chorus from that song. This made for a sweet tribute to the city and one of its all-time great artists, as the Toronto crowd recognized that piano loop as soon as they flipped it, and Oddisee nailed his performance.

The next song they’d perform off the new album was called “Already Knew,” and the band had some fun with it. Ralph would leave the keys again to do some dancing at the front of the stage, and Oddisee would get Jon on the drums to improvise and match the tempo to his flow. The track had an Electronic feel to it, as Jon and Ralph created an EDM-like beat drop at one point, and Oddisee reworked some Justin Timberlake “Sexy Back” lyrics to sing “these motherf*****s don’t know how to rap,” getting some laughs from the crowd. They’d follow up with what will be the closing track to the new album, “Race,” which Oddisee noted was about driving rather than skin colour, and another energetic track with “How Far.” With the crowd experiencing these songs for the first time, Oddisee took a moment to relate the next song to them, explaining how he wrote it while at a park with his kids, hanging around other parents he only gets along with because their kids get along. The song was called “People Watching,” and it was another one that got heads nodding.

With time for just one last song, Oddisee politely declined a fan request to play the moody “You Grew Up” in favour of ending the night with something more positive and uplifting. He’d instead take it back to another 2012 throwback, closing out the show with an extended version of “You Know Who You Are” and giving each of his band members a moment to play a solo. The crowd turned up once they recognized the track, and Oddisee nailed his vocal performance yet again, with Ralph backing up the soulful chorus. After each member got their time to shine with their solos, the band took a picture at the front of the stage and left the crowd in a good mood to end their weekend off.

Oddisee & Good Compny

While the show seemed to go by quickly, it was a fun time all around. As they always do, Oddisee & Good Compny put on an incredible performance that showcased their raw talent. It’s one thing to listen to Oddisee’s albums, but seeing the songs get performed live with his band backing him gives the music a completely different energy. With a Jazz and Funk influence, Good Compny are able to improvise and add new flavours to the songs on the fly, and Oddisee is able to adapt his vocals with perfect execution. The new songs sounded especially funky, and this show definitely got the fans hyped to hear the new album when it drops.

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