Published Nov 30, 2013Shadrach Kabango is a worldly fellow, having been born in Kenya and raised in London, Ontario. Yet, since earning his masters degree in liberal studies at SFU, he calls Vancouver home these days, and justifiably received a hero's welcome at the vintage Vogue Theatre. With two Polaris Prize nominations and a Juno win under his belt, the affable rapper deserved nothing less.
Backed up by DJ T Lo on the wheels of steel, who scratched and laid down beats from a laptop, and Ian Koiter alternately playing keyboards and bass guitar, the crowd's hands and voices raised with a minimum of provocation from the MC; they waved them like they did, in fact, care and shouted out the words to catalog jams like "Compromise" from The Old Prince and "Rose Garden" from TSOL.
Shad wasn't just coasting on his past accomplishments, though. He brought his best game along with him, employing his forceful flow to deliver his honest, life-affirming lyrics with crystal clarity. There was no hiding lyrics and flow behind muffle for this man. With lyrical themes ranging from encouraging women to rap ("Keep Shining") to an ode to immigrants ("Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)"), laced with personal exposition and social positivity, he had something to say that needs to be heard. To see him now brings to mind the likes of Blackalicious and Jurassic 5 in their prime.
That's not to say it was all perfection. When he went to play some guitar during "Rock to It" from his 2005 debut album, he couldn't get any sound to come out of his instrument, so he dropped it and redirected his creative energy back into his verse. The slight setback didn't make him stumble in the slightest, though, as he apologized for it in his between song banter, and used the problem to build trust. His unflustered openness was admirable. The guy knows how to turn a negative into a positive.
Overall, the set was well-crafted, with nary an awkward pause throughout. Shad's track selection covered all the bases, his banter was humble and appreciative, and his vibrant flow never ran out of steam, despite near constant exertion for over an hour. As he ended his regular set on "Remember to Remember" from his recent album, Flying Colours, he cut all the lights in the venue so Vancouver could party in the dark, and left the stage illuminated only by the lights on the crowd's cell phones.
That wouldn't be the final word, though, as he and his bandmates came back out to drop the Lenny Kravitz sampling "it ain't over." Then, with his band gone, he dropped an a capella version of "Epilogue: Long Jawn" from Flying Colours, a stream of consciousness rant that might as well be his manifesto.