Ab-Soul

Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON, October 12

Ab-SoulPhoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON, October 12
Photo: Shane Parent
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Regarded as one of hip-hop's most intelligent figures, Ab-Soul is known as a luminary member amongst his Black Hippie companions. An MC lauded for his brain power, the man looked to impart his brand of intellectual enlightenment on the audience as part of his first-ever headline tour. While the evening was very much about celebrating this year's These Days, the Carson, CA native first made fans relive his success of earlier years.

Appearing on stage out of the haze dressed in a black pea coat, his wiry black hair sticking out from under a ball cap, he led the crowd through a handful of dark, menacing cuts from his revered 2012 record Control System. The incredibly self-aware, paranoid natures of "Pineal Gland" and "Terrorist Threats" were turned on their heads in a live setting, with the raucous crowd matching the MC word for word. The self-proclaimed black-lipped pastor's run of familiar fan favourites primed the crowd for an hour-long set largely made up of tracks from his new record.

Behind his signature sunshades, Ab-Soul didn't prove to be the most animated performer. Prowling slowly from one side of the stage to the other all evening long, those in the audience were hard pressed in getting the stoic spitter to crack a smile, let alone anything other than his flat-affect expression. His monotonous, reserved vocal delivery was quick to leave "Twact," "Dub Sac" and "Ride Slow" lacking the higher levels of expression and precision that originally made these tracks a hit with listeners. Those in attendance largely felt the same way, standing still until they were whipped back into a frenzy with DJ T1 dropping a quick few triumphant seconds of ScHoolboy Q's "Man of the Year."

But what Ab-Soul may have lacked in vocal delivery was certainly made up for in his vocal dexterity. Apart from catching his breath a few times during the dizzying bravado of "Illuminate," a number of instances that demanded a high level of quickness such as "Just Have Fun," "Tree of Life" and the ubiquitous triplet flow of his latest record's title track were all executed with ease and confidence. Showing little reliance on his backing tracks, Ab-Soul proved his mastery of quick-witted rhyme wasn't purely all in his head, continuing to power his way through the heady "W.R.O.H.," "Nevermind That," and an encore featuring "God's Reign" and "Only 1." Regardless of whether the audience had reached Ab-Soul's heightened level of intelligence by the set's end, the evening presented an admirable look at the inner workings of TDE's brightest mind.

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