Photos by Kurtis Toikka
What’s more fun than a hometown show? The energy in the room is always turned up to eleven and the artist knows exactly how to turn it up even more seemingly without even trying.
Before Blaque Keyz took the stage, a man dressed in all black, including a toque which covered his entire face, came out waving a massive flag that read “Blaque Keyz.” Still he was absent from the stage but you could hear him rapping into his microphone as he made his way from his dressing room onto the stage. He took the stage with a ton of energy while wearing a Blaque Keyz hockey jersey “‘cause we’re in Canada,” he explained. After his first song, he said to the crowd, “Before we get this started lemme give you something to listen to,” as he began an acapella freestyle with punchlines that forced the crowd into a chorus of “oo’s” and “ah’s.” “Alright we’re getting warm,” he said to the crowd as he proceeded into his song, “Never Change” that got the crowd bouncing which typically openers struggle to do.
He spent a lot of time talking to the crowd asking how many 90’s, 80’s, and even 70’s babies were in the crowd to see how many people would be familiar with Super Nintendo games before playing the song “Rememberies” and encouraged the crowd in a singalong of “I will always remember this.” He kept talking to the crowd between almost every song telling a story of recognizing a girl at a bar before playing “Déjà Vu” and putting the crowd on his Instagram before closing his set with an unreleased song of his entitled “The Light.” For a lot of people in the crowd, Blaque Keyz made a stunning first impression on them.
SonReal’s stage was set up as the first house he lived in when he moved from Vernon, B.C. to Vancouver, complete with picket fences on either side of the stage and a barbecue that was set up as a smoke machine. To complete the set was the front of the house with the address “1851” lit up at the top which was the only thing visible prior to SonReal’s entrance to the stage. The stage setup was as if SonReal was trying to bring us into his home with him, where it all started.
He picked up an acoustic guitar and did an acoustic version to the intro track on his debut album, “One Long Dream.” Before even strumming a note he took his time milking the crowd and soaking in the chants of his own name while showing some overwhelmed laughter. After cutting the intro song short, he didn’t hesitate to jump right into the energetic part of his catalogue getting the crowd to put two hands up for the song “Repo Man” and gave the crowd his permission to scream “shut the f*uck up” at him during the chorus. He stopped mid-song to tell the Vogue that this was he most important moment of his life and he needs Vancouver to go way harder for the song and restarted the song which brought a new energy in the building.
The show took a bit of a lull with calmer songs like “All I Got,” “Potential,” and the radio hit, “Problems,” then picked up with the energetic songs “SoHo,” and his breakout song of 2013, “Everywhere We Go,” which brought chants of “We Go!” bellowing from the crowd.
“I’m trying to act surprised but I knew you guys were going to be f*cking dope… I love coming back home.”
SonReal perfectly summed up the joy of playing a hometown show with his interactions with the crowd and you could see it on his face as he would occasionally stop to take in all the cheers and love he was receiving from Vancouver.
He stopped mid-song for “Can I Get A Witness” and took time to talk to two young girls in the front row who were no older than six years old and gave the crowd the impression that the song was over, but told the crowd to “go home tonight and let two words marinate… shots fired,” then proceeded into one last chorus that had more energy than any other point leading up to that.
He gave a speech at the end telling a story of his open mics he used to do in front of 20 people and said his real name, Aaron Hoffman a kid from Vernon, B.C. who came up with the name SonReal at age 16 and it stuck until now, and truly connected with Vancouver with everyone in the crowd clinging on to every word he spoke.
The encore saw only one song, “Preach,” which saw SonReal go bananas on stage complete with a stage dive and ended up collapsing on stage before one last chorus that got everyone screaming and jumping higher than at any other point in the show.
“I usually just do one quick song and leave,” he said after, but he knew he needed to say something to leave Vancouver with saying how special the night was and it was evident that seeing so much support from his hometown hit him right in the heart.
It’s special to see a hometown rapper getting so much support from Vancouver, especially at the level that SonReal is consistently climbing too since there’s not a rapper that represents Vancouver the way SonReal does. Everyone in the building knew just how special this night was, and it was one that no one will forget for a long time.