"My heart is beating so fast," one giddy person enthused before Daniel Caesar took the stage. It's an effect Daniel Caesar has had on listeners all throughout 2017, and it translated to the Danforth Music Hall last night (December 20), Caesar's fifth sold out show in as many nights in his hometown.
Over the course of an 80-plus minute set, Caesar and crew had pulses racing. While previous shows on the Toronto stop offered up guest spots by names such as Syd of the Internet, the mysterious H.E.R., Jessie Reyez, River Tiber and Melanie Fiona, this night had a 100 percent all-Canadian feel, with R&B vet Glenn Lewis showing up to perform "Don't You Forget It" and to pass the proverbial R&B torch to a grateful Caesar; Alessia Cara stopped by to drop "Here," with Caesar noting she inspired him by showing it was indeed possible to make it in a tough industry for groove-oriented artists. If anything, the pair helped prove this year that Toronto, and by extension Canada, can and will support its own R&B acts.
Against an "all-white everything" backdrop, an ensemble that included Golden Child Recordings director Matthew Burnett on percussion and a powerful backup choir singing set led by Camille Harrison, Danah Martin and Rochelle Harrison, Caesar proved why he deserved to be the most recent Exclaim! cover star.
Opening with the vibrant strains of "Freudian," Caesar emerged through a white curtain. His onstage confidence has grown since his last major Toronto date, his quiet rock star swagger is growing with each successive appearance. "Who's been messing with me since Praise Break?" he mused aloud, to a thunderous reaction.
He dipped into older hits like "Death & Taxes" before digging into Freudian, with solid versions of "We Find Love," "Best Part" and "Take Me Away" arriving early. Despite the live take of "Hold Me Down" feeling just a tick out of sync — Caesar was visibly double-checking his monitors — it still had the crowd in the groove.
Central to his brilliance is Caesar's ability to transfer church-oriented grooves and melodies into a secular context, effortlessly and seamlessly. The gospel of "We Find Love" segued into "Blessed" and the beautifully powerful "Freudian" — complete with the choir delivering a blistering performance to cap a solid night.
"I have so many words in my mind right now," he said, surveying the crowd. "I just want to say, you guys brought me here."
There was a point where the triumphant Caesar entered the crowd, among the throngs of people, basking into the glow of their love, acceptance and the inevitable feeling that things are only going to get bigger from here.
He even dropped the mic for emphasis: Caesar, out.