Published Oct 04, 2013Dressed like a Stormtrooper heading to yoga class, Scott Mescudi emerged from what looked to be Superman's Fortress of Solitude and took his place on an illuminated platform. Besides a handful of giant moon rocks scattered amongst the stage, Kid Cudi was alone on stage. No band, no DJ, no hypeman. Just a man wearing a smile and sci-fi Spandex, singing averagely but endearingly to an arena three-quarters full of weed aficionados and/or college kids. (A Venn diagram, we know, looks nearly like an eclipse.)
Although the twin billing of Cudi and Big Sean wasn't enough to sell out the Air Canada Centre Thursday night — even with the all-ages status (the pizza lineup was often longer than the beer lineup) — you wouldn't know it by the enthusiasm the rappers put forth. Both have strong ties to the city, with Sean's Drake collaborations and Cudi's breakthrough "Day N Nite" getting more radio burn here than in most spots.
Cudi, in particular, could not stop smiling. During "Soundtrack to My Life," a front-row fan passed him a parody Canadian flag — the maple leaf swapped for a marijuana one — and the charismatic star waved it, wrapped himself in it like Usain Bolt, wore it as a cape, then asked if he could please keep it. (Yes, he may.)
While tunes from Cudi's latest, the self-produced Indicud, were met with lukewarm response, early-career smashes like "Mojo So Dope" and "Man on the Moon" turned into sing-alongs.
With little in the way of video or musical accompaniment (unless you could the imaginary violin he bowed at one point) and nary a costume change, the concert never quite reached stadium status and would have translated better at a slightly smaller venue, say, the Amphitheatre.
Still, when Cudi's 80 minutes climaxed with "Pursuit of Happiness" (original and remix!), a look around showed the crowds' smiles finally matched authenticity of his.
Who cares if the crowd was even less filled in when undercard Big Sean took the dais at 7:40? The Detroit spitter threw his skinny frame into all 50 minutes of his set. Through beams of blue light, Sean entering the scene as casual as the sex he rhymes about. Dressed in all-black — winged sneakers, jeans, jacket, backwards hat — with splashes of white, the 25-year-old ran through a series of his radio hits and catchier album cuts. But seeing the G.O.O.D. Music artist live solo, backed only by a DJ and flanked by two drummers — Why? I dunno, symmetry? — underscores how many of his memorable songs are collaborative efforts. With no surprise guests, the big beats of "Show Out" (featuring Juicy J and Young Jeezy), "Mercy" (featuring Kanye West, 2 Chainz and Pusha T) and "Clique" (featuring Jay-Z and Kanye) sound fantastic in an arena but are cut short and ring a bit hollow without some of the better verses. (Sean wisely avoided adding his Kendrick Lamar vehicle, "Control," to his set list.)
Better were "Marvin Gaye and Chardonnay" and "10 2 10," the latter a standout from his new record, Hall of Fame, which he mentioned was in stores on more than one occasion. Yawn.
Two moments hinted at Sean's improvement as a live act, however. After his verse, the instrumental to "Mercy" was sped up, fans began clapping, and the beat morphed into his Hammer-jacked hit "Dance (A$$)." The MC later picked up the energy for "All Me," his guest turn on hometown hero Drake's new LP. Sean tore off his shirt, brought out a lion mascot in a Finally Famous jersey to play silent hypeman (seriously), and climbed to the top of the speaker stage left, basically doing everything he could to distract from the fact that Drake didn't stop by for a cameo — a no-show Sean apologized for.
Sean refused to leave his friend Cudi hanging. The duo united onstage for the show's encore, and their differing styles meshed lovely, Sean energizing his more famous partner.
"I'm a little fatigued," a particularly chatty Cudi confessed. Mr. Rager had, at one point, picked up and thrown one of his chunky moon boulders. "That's all right. That's how you know you had a good fuckin' time."