Born Benjamin Laub, Grieves is barely taller than a mic stand, making fun of himself by saying he looks a bit like a 16-year-old even though he's almost twice that, but he raps like he's six foot four, his presence and confidence refreshingly unobscured by excessive bravado or filler expletives. His smooth yet unrelenting flow and honest, heartfelt lyricism was backed up by guitarist Jonathan Olivares and keyboardist Jacob Shaw. Together, these cats were smooth. The beats were fresh and the transitions smooth, with Shaw playing piano and a bit of synth while Olivares was stationed at a laptop and MIDI controller. Both Shaw and Olivares helped out with some of the vocal hooks, but they mostly rocked out on guitar and keys, playing off each other while Grieves got in the crowd's faces, something he literally did when he grabbed someone's cell phone and FaceTimed a guy who apparently looked like a Lord of the Rings character.
Throughout, Grieves' banter was on point. He ripped on a guy who was texting his girlfriend, noted it was already snowing in Calgary (about which he said, "Fuck that shit"), and remembered about how the last time they were at Fortune there was a Jabba the Hutt with a massive joint at the bar. Coaxing hands in the air left to right, he told everyone to scream as if they were having a baby out their dick holes, and quoted the Dirty Dancing line "nobody puts baby in the corner" when he cracked a can of PBR against his supposed tour manager's advice to not drink.
Laub made a few serious points, too, most notably when he described how he is not emo. Like Marvin Gaye or Syl Johnson, he delivers human expression in his art, closer to soul and blues. And it wasn't mere posturing, and the proof is in his music. One of the set's biggest moments was "Smile for the Blade," from 2010's The Confessions of Mr. Modest, in which he hammered the point home with the line, "You gotta be out your mind thinking I would give a damn about/ The flaws that you find, cause I'm human."
Though Grieves was touring in support of his 2014 album, Winter & The Wolves, his set list pulled from across his catalogue. He took a trip down memory lane with "Scar Gardens" and "I Ate Your Soul" from his 2007 debut Irreversible, coaxed a call-and-response chorus for "Gwenevieve" from his 2010 album 88 Keys & Counting, and roused an enthusiastic soul-clap during the good time groove of "Against The Bottom" from 2011's Together/Apart. Shaw and Olivares both played guitar for "I Ate Your Soul," coming out from behind their stations to stand alongside Grieves for "Kidding Me," bringing their set to a peak with Laub commanding a ThunderCats roar.