There’s nothing quite like going to a show that blows away your expectations. After so many, it’s easy to become a jaded critic, who thinks he knows exactly how a show is going to start and end. I certainly stand accused of such preconceived notions. I had done my research on Heartstreets, and even though I found their 90s R&B throwback sound nostalgic and charming, I assumed that it would be a pretty low-key show. Oh my God, was I wrong! With their energy, singing and fierce personalities, the duo didn’t just knock it out of the park, they knocked it right off the island. What’s even more impressive is that openers RYAN Playground and Cj Flemings almost kept up! Even if I wasn’t a big a fan of their music, I can’t deny that they also knew how to put on one hell of a show!
Cj Flemings could have easily gotten by on his swagger and his flow alone. There was nothing he was spouting that hasn’t been said better by another rapper, but what made him fascinating to watch was his vulnerability. Most rappers assume that the game is all about the money and the women. Sure, that’s a fun fantasy, it’s just that when you hold a microphone in your hand you have the power to say something truly meaningful. Fleming wasn’t an open wound all the time. In fact, he spent a lot of time expertly cozying up to the women in the audience and pumping up everyone else, but it’s when he let his guard down that I saw potential beyond his confidence. When he confessed to writing a song about loneliness in his room, I felt that he could be the next Drake, except, you know, less whiny.
I have been very vocal about how most DJs don’t make for great performers. Even if RYAN Playground didn’t completely convert me, she put up one hell of a fight. I’d say if her set was 5-10 minutes shorter, it would have been utterly perfect. Besides that, she was so mesmerizing, it was almost as if you could see the music running through her veins. Every knob twist had urgency. Every bob of her head was graceful and seamless. There is nothing more contagious than watching someone share their passion with you, which is why other DJs should take note. You don’t need big flashy screens, 3D glasses or weird stage props, you just need to have gusto and the desire to make people dance. I also love how creative she was with her samples, almost as if she was challenging herself to make Sum 41’s “Fat Lip,” Owl City’s “Fireflies” somehow cool again.
No matter how good the openers were, there was no stopping Heartsteerts. This was their show, and they were not going to let anyone take that away from them. Even if you listen to their recordings first, it’s impossible to brace yourself for impact. There’s a smooth, low-key vibe to their songs, but in a live setting, it’s like 100 firecrackers going off at once. I felt completely annihilated in the best possible way! What’s remarkable was how immediately evident Gab Godon and Emma Beko fed off each other. Even without having to look it up, I could just sense that these two are childhood friends and ultimately kindred spirits. You can’t fake that kind of love and admiration. You could tell that they were living out their long talked about dreams together on that stage, and it made everything they sang that much more exciting.
As the show progressed it also became readily apparent what each woman brought to the stage. Each of them possesses a spunky attitude and are experts at engaging their audience, but differ in their vocal stylings. Beko was more the rapper and hype-woman and Godon the soulful crooner. I was constantly impressed by the ability to interweave their skill sets. No one was sidelined or showcased as they both felt like frontwomen, and lead creative forces. It was most evident during crowd favourite “Under My Skin” and the encore “Cruising with You”, when each of them strolled into the audience and faced each other as they sang. Even though they had the audience eating out of their hands, you could tell in that moment that the music was the only thing that existed. It gave me shivers. At one point, they admitted to being nervous. Was anyone supposed to believe them?
Anyway, GO SEE HEARTSTREETS! Don’t be a close-minded idiot like I was! Don’t judge them by their recordings either. It’s all a ruse to knock you on your ass! Mark my words, they are easily one of the most kick-ass underground live acts working today.
Written by Shawn Thicke
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Kate Erickson