Photographs by Sue Sadzak.
I’ve always wanted to see Classified live, and not only for musical reasons. As a buyer for a record store chain, I was promised a phone call from the Nova Scotia rapper when his 10th album, Boy-Cott In The Industry, wasn’t going to be in his hometown’s stores for release day. The shipment was late due to weather, but I dreaded the call. But the man was pure class and conveyed his passion into his work and his disappointment at this setback in such a compelling and respectful way. I didn’t know the rapper before this phone call but I immediately converted.
Following the release of his 15th album, Greatful, Classified brought a truly cross-Canadian triple bill to a sold out Phoenix on a frigid Saturday night.
What shocked me most as I waited outside in line was the number of families waiting to get in. I had to ask to make sure I was at the right place as some of these kids looked like they should be going to see The Wiggles. The families in attendance would be a foreshadowing of the headliner, who made his performance a family affair bringing along his two brothers to give an assist.
Clearly the man has honed his skills on the road, bringing a show more worthy of the cavernous Air Canada Centre in the relative intimate confines of the Phoenix Concert Theatre in Toronto. Accompanied by a DJ, hype-man, keyboardist, drummer and guitarist, Class also brought along a blinding light show and volume that at times did overwhelm the Phoenix soundsystem distorting some of his raps. Over the course of almost an hour and a half, Class peppered his set of a surprising number of “hits” with newer tracks off his latest solid album. They fit in quite nicely and avoided losing the crowd’s energy.
I was hoping with the NBA All-Star weekend in town that Snoop Dogg would make an appearance as he appears on Greatful, but it wasn’t to be and to be honest, Classified didn’t need him to hype the packed crowd as they were already well on their way. His confident yet modest and positive demeanor was uplifting and the crowd jumped and roared in approval. Much like him on that phone call, Class poured his passion into his stage representation and only the jaded could find fault with.
Opening the night was representing the Six was JD Era. He was already on stage when I arrived but he tore the place up with a hunger. I had never heard of him before, although he did mention losing a Juno Award to the headliner, but his delivery was on fire and the beats the perfect way to get a Saturday started and defrost a chilled crowd.
Vancouver’s SonReal was up next and seemed to lose the momentum JD Era had built. His banter was a bit on the awkward side and this will be sorted with more touring and finding his comfort zone between songs. His songs and energy were undeniable and impressive but the energy seemed to get sucked out between songs.