Miguel Sound Academy, Toronto ON, August 11

Miguel Sound Academy, Toronto ON, August 11
Photo: Shane Parent
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Come for the music, stay for the evangelizing — that was the vibe set by Miguel on this night.
 
Miguel is a rock star in his prime. His latest album, Wildheart, has been successful on a range of fronts, from its modern day Prince elements, its sensual open-mindedness and a refusal to conform to current commercial R&B sensibilities.
 
Framing the show around Wildheart's opening track "Beautiful Exit" — particularly the lyrics "Ignore the planned conventions of society / The muted world, doesn't dream in colours" — the flashy artist performed a mind-bending 90-minute set decked in all white. Miguel's entire small but impactful discography (which also includes 2010's All I Want Is You and 2012's Kaleidoscope Dream) was fair game, with fresh yet familiar takes on "Sure Thing," "All I Want Is You," "Do You Like…" and "Quickie" all making appearances.
 
Backed by a five-piece band, the psychedelic and starry celestial backgrounds and obvious nods to Prince-styled theatrics were well appreciated by the hungry crowd. The thematic conceits of Los Angeles love-letter Wildheart, which in his words are individuality and non-conformism, were explored with a couple of show pauses in which he went on at length about his struggles growing up in Southern Cali, bucking the system, exploring his own identity, and "transcending the programming" — segues that went on perhaps a bit too long but were endearing nonetheless.
 
While the crowd was often restless at points, having no limits was the message; he went deep explaining tracks like "What's Normal Anyway," complete with fan-submitted images playing on the screen behind him. He also stopped the show and implored the crowd to take an oath to explore their own individuality, to live true and with no restrictions.
 
When it comes to performance, Miguel is on-point. The dives into the Wildheart track list — "Face The Sun," "GFG," "FLESH," "Hollywood Dreams" — showed that his inspiration runs deep, while the encore of current hit "Coffee" and modern classic "Adorn" showed that he can appeal to mainstream sensibilities, too.  
 
Overall, the night revealed that no one else currently is doing it on the level Miguel is at the moment. He's something special, combining R&B/soul's inherent creativity and innovation with a rock-oriented flair.