While the scheduled artists for the last year's abandoned first day would have set the festival off with downtempo introspective offerings, L.A.-based rapper YG, who opened this year's two-day festival, presented a much different proposition. Decked out in a red Blue Jays jacket, with Canada emblazoned on the back and an Olde English font embossed Bompton baseball cap, he hit the stage with a lot of enthusiasm. As the Molson Amphitheatre crowd, many sporting freshly acquired OVO merchandise, was still filing in, he was unlikely to spark the bottle-tossing wrath of audience members that occurred in Edmonton only a couple of nights earlier.
Performing tracks from his debut solo album My Krazy Life, the album's DJ Mustard-produced tracks drew a rise out of fans every time they started up. "BPT," "Bicken Back Bein Bool" and "Left, Right" as well as older track "Toot It and Boot It" were all part of YG's set list, but the biggest reception from the crowd for his set came from his DJ's penchant for dropping Dr Dre produced instrumentals. Predictably, that all changed when his DJ dropped the hit single "My N---a" and then ended the set with the low-end bounce of his Drake-featuring single "Who Do You Love?"
However, the OVO host did not make an on-stage appearance here or at any other point on OVO Fest's first night. The spotlight was going to be entirely on Outkast, and when the optical display evoking the Stankonia album cover was projected onto a cube-shaped stage prop and the silhouetted figures of Big Boi and Andre 3000 became visible about an hour later, the crowd noise levels understandably started to peak; it had been a long time since Outkast performed a show in Toronto.
While Andre donned a platinum wig and a black jumpsuit bearing the phrase "OK, hand over the cure and stop playing" his black and white co-ordination was far less jarring than that of his partner. Rocking a patchwork jacket, bandana, army fatigue shorts and a medallion, Big Boi was surprisingly the more outlandish sartorial presence of the two. The group were backed by an eight-piece band featuring longtime Outkast cohorts like bassist Debra Killings and DJ Cutmaster Swift, as well a two-piece horn section (who disappointingly weren't deployed to deliver the peerless "Spottieottiedopaliscious").
Without delay, the Atlanta duo launched into the breathless "B.O.B" to start things off, setting the tone for a frenetically-paced run through Outkast's deep back catalogue. After the rock-infused "Gasoline Dreams," a brace of songs followed from the albums ATLiens, Aquemini and Stankonia, further underlining if there was any doubt that Outkast has one of the most enduring and consistent discographies in hip-hop history. When songs as strong as "Ms. Jackson," "Rosa Parks," "ATLiens" and "Da Art of Storytelling Pt. 1" can be dropped very early in the set, the point is made.
While it was clear neither has really lost a step on the mic, Andre's laconic stage presence countered the more animated Big Boi; he could have been interpreted as being slightly detached from the proceedings, and the two only occasionally directly engaged each other. That being said, Andre was responsible for much of the direct interaction with the crowd, musing openly without a filter. During his solo section of the show, he curiously expounded on why panties were even invented after a sit-down rendition of "She Lives In My Lap." He also wondered aloud if any of the girls they had pre-selected to dance onstage during "Hey Ya" were older than 10 years old when the song came out and also assessed that the crowd would rather hear him rap rather than crooning along to his slap-funk slow jams like "Prototype" (which was performed well, for the record).
Directly preceding Andre's solo segment, the less loquacious Big Boi turned in a no-frills workmanlike performance, noticeably getting the crowd worked up with the ATL bounce of the Purple Ribbon Allstars track "I'm On It," co-ordinating dance moves with two boys for "Ghetto Musick" and getting the crowd swaying to the soulful "The Way You Move."
The duo then dipped back into their first two albums for heads who have followed them from the beginning of their 20-year career, with deep album cuts like "Crumblin 'Erb" performed next to stone cold classic singles like "Elevators."
As they hit the home stretch and wound down, Andre delivered his still awe-inducing opening verse from UGK's "Int'l Players' Anthem" with decidedly more verve, dedicating it to UGK's late Pimp C. And then there was a roar when Port Arthur's finest, UGK's Bun B, emerged on stage to kick his verse to help complete the tribute to his late partner. It was a reminder that despite the fact it was Outkast's night, surprises are still very much part of Drake's OVO Fest experience, setting the table for a presumably cameo-stacked second night.
See photos from the show here.