It finally happened, ladies and gentlemen. After all these years of seeing live shows, I finally found myself at my very first hip-hop show. I’ve been wanting to see one for the longest time, but I’d never gotten around to it until Friday the 12th . I got a chance to witness Nightly and NF totally take over MTelus with such ease that I was blown away. As usual, I tried to get there before the doors open to get a nice seat, but even as I arrived early, the line filled the sidewalk and I was forced to change spots at least ten times during the night to find a space where I could actually see the stage. Both artists one the bill gave me one hell of an introduction to what a hip-hop show is like. It was full of energy and movement; much more, I dare say, than some of the rock and metal shows I’ve seen.
Up first was Nightly, an alternative pop band with a lot to show. With only a debut EP under their belt, these guys already have a huge following, which is what gained them the spot on NF’s sold-out tour. Not a bad start for a band at such an early stage. As a three-piece sporting drums, guitars, and a singer, the band also had pre-recorded beats which they played over. I often hear of musicians complaining about the use of pre-recorded tracks, but if you ask me, these guys can’t miss a note. They need to follow the backing track with absolute precision or they will lose the tempo. Frontman and singer Jonathan Capeci has a soft voice, but he carries it well. With Joey Beretta on drums and singing along for a few songs, the melodies blended well with their brand of alternative pop. I also have to mention the incredible sound quality. The sound people definitely have a part to play in this, but the drumming by Beretta was so precise and clean! I’d put him more on the jazzy side of drumming, but without the very technical aspect. He hits hard and every cymbal, tom, and snare has a distinctive sound. From what I can deduce, the third member of the band is an extra addition for the tour. Though I had trouble hearing the strings over the drums and beats, when effects were in play, the guitar gave an extra layer to the music which was much appreciated.
Even before NF walked on stage, the crowd was screaming his name, anticipating his arrival. The stage was set up with a drummer in the corner, a large cage in the middle and a swinging bench on the left side of the stage. The curtains dropped and NF jumped to the edge of the stage while singing “Why,” a single not yet released on any album. Immediately the crowd was jumping and singing along. Looking around, I noticed an extremely varying demographic. There were kids as young as 10, as well as an older crowd. I noticed people who could easily fall within the 50–70 age range, and they were also singing. NF has done an incredible job appealing to all the ages, which would also explain how he filled MTelus to its maximum capacity. With a lot of room on stage, NF was often running around, making sure both sides of the crowd were awake and dancing. At some points, he would climb on top of the cage and tower over the audience, rapping and singing even as he climbed.
There was an Eminem feel to his voice and flow; even though he is nowhere near as “violent” or fast as Eminem, each one of NF’s build-ups ended with the crowd screaming and singing along. His song “My Life” has one of the catchiest choruses I’ve ever heard. It’s simple, but that’s exactly why it works. NF has tight beats, but keeps them simple, preferring to blow away the crowd with his rhymes. Also worth mentioning is the stage, which was set up like something you’d see at the Bell Centre. I already mentioned the cage and swing, but behind all of that were three huge screens where images and videos would constantly play, fitting with the specific song he was singing. NF played an extremely long set, starting at around 9 pm and easily finished around 11 pm. After an encore, he came out and shook hands with those at the front of the stage. With a final farewell, he saluted the crowd and left the stage while the audience chanted his name.
I couldn’t have asked a better introduction to a hip-hop show. The energy and love the audience gave to the artist was immense and it fueled them to give an incredible show. NF and Nightly, who sold out their first show in Montreal, definitely left a mark. This is not the last time we will hear of these guys, so make sure you catch them next time they come back through town!
Written by Johnathan Robinson
*edited by Kate Erickson