Published Sep 29, 2013It's only taken six years and five albums for cult favourite R&B singer and songwriter The-Dream to perform in Canada. There have been tentative and cancelled dates (earlier this year he was scheduled to tour with Kelly Rowland), and so it's curious that his first Canadian gig would materialize at POP Montreal. That's a testament to the innovative nature of the annual, quirky art-pop festival. (Conversely, as overhead in the bathroom: the Friday night show at L'Olympia might have filled out more had it been promoted beyond "indie" Montreal to urban and commercial radio listeners.)
This background is important, because you already know his work. As Terius Nash he's written "Baby" by Justin Bieber, "Umbrella" by Rihanna," and "Single Ladies" by Beyonce. Nash is a critical darling, an inimitable sonic auteur, and the contemporary architect of what poptimists like to call "indie R&B." For a variety of reasons the success he's had with pliable pop stars hasn't translated to his solo work, but at the Olympia, The-Dream proved he has the talent, the cross-gender appeal, and — most crucial — the songs to back up his solo ambition.
He strolled out on stage in all black — a bomber jacket over a collared tunic with leather sleeves worn with leather pants, a snapback and sunglasses — accessorized with a gold Radio Killa chain and a gold microphone and stand. Most of his set featured songs from his first two, most commercially successful albums such as 2007's Love Hate and 2009's Love vs. Money, like "Shawty is the Shit," "Fast Car," "Rockin' That Shit," "I Luv Your Girl," "Walkin' On the Moon," and "Fancy." A slighty pitchy cover of Jodeci's "Come and Talk To Me" went unnoticed by most of the audience, unlike the "Dirty Diana" cover he performed later in the show. It was light work for the three-piece band accompanying him; simple drums and winding outros.
As a performer The-Dream, baby-faced and sings with a golden tenor to match, oozes charm, which is a foil for campy, hyper-explicit lyrics. Unlike Usher and Miguel, who heat things up by stripping off layers, The-Dream preferred swaying and grinding to the beat with his legs in a wide stance. This alpha male posturing was best executed, to screams from a cabal of diehards in the front row, during his 2013 single "IV Play."