R.A. the Rugged Man / Riviera Regime The Comfort Zone, Toronto, ON January 9

R.A. the Rugged Man / Riviera Regime The Comfort Zone, Toronto, ON January 9
Previously plagued by police scrutiny, scuzzy underground Toronto club the Comfort Zone celebrated its re-opening with a perfectly appropriate performance from infamous scumbag rapper R.A. the Rugged Man. That the day also happened to be the New Yorker's birthday only made the energy in the place that much more palpable.

While far from full, the space around the stage was still packed with diehard hip-hop fans and self-professed sleaze bags. Unfortunately, the sound was horrible all night, with opening act Riviera Regime's rough, hardcore beats overpowering their vocals, especially for the Toronto outfit's soft-spoken sidekick Benny Brahmz, and a stage full of mic-less hype men mouthing the words wasn't making up for it.

Thankfully, R.A. fared better, although it was still a constant battle with the sound man to be heard. He missed a few requests - most notably "Every Record Label Sucks Dick" - because he didn't have the instrumentals, but he did drop "The Lessons," "On the Block" and "Da' Girlz, They Luv Me" (during which he jumped down into the crowd twice).

Stopping only a few lines into his amazing verse from Jedi Mind Tricks' "Uncommon Valor," a teary-eyed Rugged Man explained how his father, the inspiration for this Vietnam vet verse, had just passed away the day before the show and this was his first time performing the song since then. Buoyed by support from the crowd, R.A. delivered a rousing rendition of his raps before finally breaking down. It was an oddly touching moment in an otherwise grimy night of broken bottles and weed smoke.