Concert Reviews

Kali Uchis with Gabriel Garzon Montano at REBEL

While any artist can perform live, not every single one can create a presence; at least, not the kind that, though the word doesn’t actually permit it, feels as tangible as you can get. That kind of presence is affective to the core, like a spider weaving a web that slowly stretches out throughout your body. 

If the comparison is a bit much, then it might be easier to get a sense of it by seeing Gabriel Garzón-Montano and Kali Uchis, if not during the In Your Dreams tour, then at some point individually. They both understand and deal in the trade of bodysnatching, at least through the means of their music and performance, very well. 

Garzón-Montano is the voice guiding Drake’s track “Jungle” from his 2013 mixtape If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late; the song samples “6 8”, from his EP Bishouné: Almda del Huila. But by the time Garzón-Montano got to it, it wasn’t the best he had to offer, nor did it become a turning point in his half an hour performance. It was simply another example of Garzón-Montano’s considerable range, a point of reference that when compared to the rest of his work, gently echoes in the back.

Where he thrives is where he lives. On songs like “Sour Mango” from his debut album Jardin, Garzón-Montano makes you long for summer afternoons in New York (he grew up in Brooklyn), transporting listeners the same way Frank Ocean evoked the California coast on Channel Orange. He’s the kind of artist that takes you somewhere, and in the swirls of funk, R&B, the occasional “woo”, and electric guitar, you find a smooth comfort, the most pleasant place to be. Whether he’s reminiscing about purple clouds (“Bombo Fabrika”), deep blue seas (“Golden Wings”), or singing birds (“Everything is Everything”), every journey Garzón-Montano’s shared was satisfying as the next. The only exception might be Gabriel’s memory of his last visit to Toronto, which he shared involved local breakout Daniel Caesar leaving his show midway through. Fortunately, this performance not only rectified his experience, but also left a certain warmth that you wanted to dwell in. Those are the kind of escapes that are the hardest to let go of, making Gabriel Garzón-Montano someone to hang onto.

Kali Uchis doesn’t like to talk to a lot of people—an insight she shared with her Toronto audience. It’s a preference that’s hard to believe given how incredible she is at shapeshifting; bouncing between uptempo bubble pop, ghosting trap beats, and reggaeton influences while navigating self-love, break ups, and frustrations with inequality, her debut album, Isolation is all about the connection. The confidence that came with presenting every idea, note, and sway is so magnetic, so seismic that the crowd was instantly (and literally physically) drawn into her just a few songs in. Even her take on Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love” felt like a logical choice for Uchis, who took on the disco classic so delicately, yet powerfully. Her raw energy, underscored by her individuality, femininity, and range, helped songs like “Miami”, “Tyrant”, and “Your Teeth in My Neck” punch harder live. It’s the kind that you wish you could bottle and sell; and even if that was a possibility, Kali Uchis would still find a way to shine brighter and connect with even more fluidity. That’s the only kind of isolation that seems consistent with her abilities. 

About author

Mehek is a Toronto-based writer who dwells in music, film, tech, and everything in between. Find her on Twitter at @whatthemehek where she’s probably talking about the latest release, sharing GIFs, or retelling her awkward encounter with Childish Gambino.