It’s been really nice seeing Shad’s career develop over the years. It’s also been really nice to see such a positive reception – this time in a form of a sold out crowd at Toronto’s Danforth Music Hall – for the Canadian rapper.
But it’s also just as easy to appreciate his relatively unknown status to that of hip hop mega-star Drake; easier still to forget that Shad actually bested Drake for the honour of Rap Recording of the Year at the 2011 JUNO Awards. As the two rappers continue their careers to varying degrees of success and exposure, it seems inevitable that the comparisons will keep coming. They’re easy reference points to make – and Shad called it out himself at his recent Toronto show, dropping in a mention of Drizzy near the end of an incredible a cappella encore.
Indeed, his Friday night show at the Danforth felt a whole lot like Drake’s annual OVO efforts at the Molson Amphitheatre – albeit without the frills of international superstars and an exorbitant production budget. Rather than pulling out friends like Kanye or Diddy, Shad opted for the more local (but no less talented) to help him out with showings from his fourth album, 2013’s Flying Colours. Scarborough’s Saukrates joined him on stage early on for “Stylin’” and Eternia came out later for “Love Means” – both energetic offerings in a packed set-list.
While Flying Colours material featured prominently throughout the night, easy highlights came unsurprisingly through the familiar singles. Shad delivered much of it with a grin on his face, clearly relishing in the audience’s familiarity with his songs. “Yaa I Get It”, off of 2010’s much acclaimed TSOL was sung back word-for-word, as was “Rose Garden.”
Breakout record The Old Prince was also well represented, Shad dipping into the catalogue with “Exile,” bass-heavy “I Don’t Like To,” and the classic “The Old Prince Still Lives At Home.”
While he was almost exclusively at the microphone for much of the performance, Shad also picked up a guitar for “Rock To It,” a track off of 2005 debut When This Is Over. Much of the night’s instrumentals were left, however, with his long-time band. DJ TLO kept busy on the decks, commanding the stage during the energetic “Fam Jam” and “We, Myself and I” while Ian Koiter provided bass and keys – coming off particularly well with TSOL track “Keep Shining.”
The thing about a Shad show is that you can tell he’s enjoying himself – and not just because he at one point told the crowd: “I’m one of the luckiest people in the world to get to do this.” It extends past the banter. Both the on-stage and audience energy seemed completely positive. Because at a Shad show you can expect to see kids and their parents rubbing elbows with the huge hip hop fans in the front row.
And to his credit, Shad knows how to deliver – no doubt helped by the fact that he’s getting better with every show. It’s all performed with conviction; on stage he’s present, he’s engaged, and he’s intelligent in his approach and lyrics. There’s a wide appeal to him and a strong, effortless delivery.
Ending with the words “Thank You” behind him on the big screen, it’s hard not to like the guy – and not just because that’s probably the most Canadian thing in the world. As he finished up his set with “Epilogue: Long Jawn” that included references to sports, politics, food, 30 Rock, identity, Justin Timberlake, and London (Ontario – not the United Kingdom, of course) came the line that showed just how good Shad is: “I’m like a Benz in this city of Fords.” The huge cheers were well deserved and, as his set proved, there’s inevitably more of that headed his way.
Thanks to Union Events for media access.