Danny Brown The Phoenix, Toronto ON, November 4

Danny Brown The Phoenix, Toronto ON, November 4
Photo: Geoff Fitzgerald
8
It felt like an encore kind of night.
 
The Phoenix was rammed on this Friday, to the point where you'd best sharpen your elbows if you wanted to weasel your way to the bar or locate your friends in the humanity. We were stuffed in a rush-hour subway car with better beats and crushed tall cans underfoot.
 
The party was lit, as the kids would say, even before a backlit Danny Brown took the stage at 10:45.
 
Supported only by the cacophonous beats teed up by his vowel-averse DJ, Skywlkr, the Detroit MC embarked on 60 minutes of relentlessness. Dreads flopping and arms pumped roofward, Brown's energy matched that of a throng primed to party like Chris Farley, to borrow a line from "Die Like a Rockstar," his opening song.
 
Yes, even though Brown is promoting his excellent new platter — the sample-heavy, critically adored Atrocity Exhibition — on this four-month-long The Exhibition 2016 tour, Friday's set list was heavy on standouts from 2011's XXX and 2013's Old.
 
Familiar favourites like "Lie4," "I Will" and "Blunt After Blunt" were mostly performed as Brown placed one shoe on the stage-front monitor and leaned into his rabid congregation. The building got riled up early.
 
"I've been to dozens of shows here over the years," a friend turned and said. A crowd-surfer caught a wave and sailed by. "I've never felt the floor shake like this."
 
"It's like I'm on a trampoline!" said one drunk.
 
Efficient and economical, the 35-year-old's show was opened by well-received Detroit associate ZelooperZ and was low on frills. No hypeman, no band, no videos, no chatting up the fans. Just a loud onslaught of wild rhythms and a fusillade of multi-coloured lights —strobe, beam and otherwise.
 
"Don't let me into my zone!" Brown chanted during "Dip," but he was already deep in it.
 
The head-noddy "Grown Up" and Purity Ring–aided "25 Bucks" were welcome changeups from the squeaky-voiced rapper's spaz-out anthems like "When It Rain," "Smokin' & Drinkin'." And new tracks "Pneumonia" and "Really Doe" stand out as winners live.
 
Really, they all were. Brown had the crowd in the palm of his hand. So when he hit the hour mark on the dot and claimed, "That's my time," it was no surprise they demanded a return to the stage. For ten minutes, chants of "Dan-ny!" and "One! More! Song!" rained. It felt like an encore kind of night. But the house lights flicked on, and our wishes went unrequited.