Photos taken by: Ziyaad Haniff
We’ve been to a lot of concerts. You may not know our names, but if you’ve been to a show in Toronto, you’ve probably seen us in line – yes, we arrive before doors open – anticipating any and all facets of the impending performances. This has become a bit of a procedure for Jamaal and I. We anticipate when doors actually open, we gauge the energy of the crowd, and we estimate the time our fellow Torontonians find it socially acceptable to show up. Leading up to February 1, 2018, we hypothesized what a sold-out Brent Faiyaz and Diana Gordon show would be like. We were terribly mistaken.
Before the show, fans filled the Drake Hotel foyer, seeking refuge from yet another Cold Weather Warning in Toronto. Thankfully, the Drake Underground doors opened up shortly after 8 p.m. Usually, the opening act is met with small clusters of friends scattered throughout the venue, frolicking by the bar or anywhere convenient to lean against. But in the minutes leading up to Diana Gordon’s set, the primary venue space was packed. Fans trailed all the way back to the entrance of the Underground.
When Diana stepped on the stage, she levelled with the audience. She told us her music was quite personal, as if it was a warning of some kind. The stage decorated in bouquets of flowers, we never could have guessed the extent to which her music conveyed heartache. The performance was very personal. Diana invited us to an open seat at the family table as she spoke about her loved ones, in all their guts and glory. The content of her music is dominated by frustrations, heartbreaks, and losses; some so emotional, you wouldn’t dare share it and lose the trust of a friend. The songstress prefaced songs with anecdotes that served as emotional anchors. With our heartstrings in knots, Diana used her songwriting abilities to paint her darkest moments in our minds; the lasting consequences of a missing brother, an unappreciative sibling, and a missing father. When her set was over, the room was overflowing with love, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one disheartened to see a new friend leave.
Like the opener of Sonder Son, Brent walked on stage and reminisced on his younger years with “Home”, garbed in a larger puffer jacket and his signature shades — I imagine they’re terrible to perform in. As expected, he shed his layers to reveal what resembled a fanny pack strapped across his bare chest. Slowly pacing back and forth on stage, occasionally stopping to hold a fan’s hand and serenade her as their eyes were locked, Brent embodied the essence of the 90’s RnB stars that many already draw parallels to. The most remarkable feature of his performance was the general consensus we reached when we spoke to fans after the show: he sounds exactly like his studio recordings. There were no audio effects for him to hide behind; he’s out here spilling his soul. It felt very much like an amplification of Sonder Son, his performance no longer supplementary to the album and instead a crucial component of the Faiyaz mythos.Despite the crowded room, there was a trend throughout the night; it was strangely quiet. Diana even pointed it out early on in her set. But it wasn’t because we weren’t enthused or entertained. In reality, we were all so captivated by the music. The community came together in an intimate space, and like a religious experience, it would be a sin to interrupt. Although we greeted Brent on-stage with cheers, everyone got back to quietly vibing out, our gazes fixed on the singer, not wanting to miss a single moment in what would be the smallest venue we’d ever see an artist of this calibre. At a particular moment in the night, there was one courageous soul who changed all of that. “Brent, you’re an icon!” He yelled as everyone cheered in agreement. It was a tipping point for the show, and fans were noticeably more comfortable, opting out of their collective trance for a more visible and audible form of appreciation. Knowing the experience was coming to an end, you really wanted to make the most of the night.After faking us out and leaving the room, his band playing the Grammy-nominated “Crew”, the Grammy-nominated artist came back on stage to ride that wave of energy. He closed out the night for a roaring, sold-out room of Toronto mans and “bad tingz” (as Brent himself put it). There wasn’t a heartfelt departure of any sort, in part because there was also a Brent-hosted afterparty elsewhere, but also because we knew Brent would be back. And when he was, we knew we’d all be there. Be it the Drake Underground, Mod Club, or the Danforth Music Hall, Brent wouldn’t dare deprive himself of the love we showed that night.
Did you attend the Sonder Son Tour? What was your favourite moment? What do you think Brent will do next? Reply to the tweet below and join the conversation:
Sonder Son is now available on your favourite streaming services.