The weather in Montreal on February 28th was certainly on the warm side and it provided the perfect setting for dvsn’s stop at Montreal’s MTelus. I was in my winter coat because I’m getting old now, but the rest of the crowd, the majority of who were decidedly younger than me, showed off their summer dance clothes in droves. The kids were definitely feeling the heat. One of them even kissed our photographer out of the blue! Talk about YOLO.
For a set with so little substance, I have a surprising amount to say about DJ Pup Dawg’s opening performance. The first thing that struck me was how well he succeeded at turning the MTelus into your typical downtown night club. He stood at his rig under two red spotlights while he hit play on what was clearly a Macbook. He continuously addressed the ladies in the room – and only the ladies. He may have mentioned boyfriends at one point, but that was the only male pronoun that exited his lips. It was a little creepy, altogether. He made sure nobody forgot who they were there to see; after almost every song he yelled out “dvsn is in the building!” As if we hadn’t gotten the message the first 98 times. He also gave a shout out to his alcoholics in the house. Such class, such grace.
His song selection was entertaining if not typical. Aside from Drake and other OVO members (can’t be forgetting that we’re at an OVO-sponsored show, either) he managed to sneak in at least three DMX tracks. He sprinkled in some newer tracks like Cardi B’s mega hit “Bodak Yellow” but for the most part he stuck to R&B and hip hop classics. He didn’t play any full songs and kept stopping the tracks at the strangest spots. There was one moment where the two of us shared some common ground. Right before the end of his set as he announced once again that dvsn was about ready to hit the stage, he asked us if we were ready for a night without autotune. It was a promise he had already broken on multiple occasions during his own set, but the sentiment was nice.
Dvsn is a duo, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell from their performance. Producer Nineteen85 was not in the building and was only briefly mentioned by his partner, singer Daniel Daley, during the performance. It’s hard to deny Daley’s star power though. He stood in front of the sold-out crowd and moved across the stage with enough swagger to make Drake proud. His voice was lined with silk, and every time he hit his higher register squeals of joy could be heard from the crowds of young girls gathered toward the front of the room.
His set was diverse enough. He stood in front of a large screen that alternated between night time cityscapes, sultry sex scenes, and fluid colour palates. To his right next to the screen were three female backup singers who provided strong harmonies and accompaniments to his neo-soul songs. He gave them love and called them the best backup singers in the world, and then invited one of them to switch places with him. Shantel May sang two songs of her own, one of them being her lead single “Back N Forth.”
Daley provided a strong selection of his own hits including “Mood,” “Morning After” and the evening’s best received track “Hallucinations.” He also threw in a healthy number of covers. A couple of them were Drake songs including “Hold On.” Gotta keep OVO at the front, after all. He also gave an a capella rendition of Usher’s “U Got it Bad” that was on par with the original. Living up to Usher is no small feat. Dvsn, Drake and OVO are not names that anyone who attended the show will be forgetting soon, even if we hadn’t been reminded over a hundred times by the opening act.
Written by Syd Ghan
Photography by Eric Brisson Photography
*edited by Kate Erickson