Zaki Ibrahim Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON October 24

Zaki Ibrahim Phoenix Concert Theatre, Toronto ON October 24
Not everyone at this concert was convinced of Zaki Ibrahim's star power. "Based on what I heard, I thought the shit was weak,” a sceptic tells me before the show. So why is he here? Because people say the Toronto-based songstress with the velvet voice is a legend in training.

All sorts of folks have made exaggerated comparisons: Amy Winehouse, Erykah Badu and Lauryn Hill. Like me, the sceptic’s been told to reserve judgment until he sees her live. Many of those in attendance think that's just the way to convert non-believers. Not quite. Her problem is the same as opener Tanika Charles: her lyrics are bland and fail to stir your soul.

It's after 12:00 a.m. when a rambling spoken-word intro opened Ibrahim's headlining set. Attendance seemed to fall below 150 people, but is boosted by a guest list that ran pretty long. When Ibrahim arrived onstage with her were three back-up singers, a drummer, a percussionist/bassist, a trumpet player and a saxophonist. Thanks to a muddled sound mix, all those instruments swamped her voice, which sounded better on the album.

She stuck mostly to the material from Ecletica (Episodes In Purple). "You Choose” channelled Macy Gray's "I've Committed Murder” remix, but with a less-compelling narrative. "Sorry if it sounds the same but do I blame ya for hearing the same seeing the same thing you choose?” she sang. For someone who spent time in a turbulent South Africa, you'd expect something more than the same be-strong songs ("Grow”) or ballads ("Lost In You”) you've heard from Deborah Cox, Keshia Chante, Jully Black and others.

Hearing the line, "I could spend my whole life reading your face/I see you've got thoughts in outer space,” only illuminated the issue. Ibrahim must dig deeper, perhaps mining her biracial background or her time in South Africa, for her star to rise.