Brand Nubian / Brother Ali Tonic, Toronto ON - August 25, 2004

With the return of the pint-sized Grand Puba to the Nubian line-up, most in attendance at this solid one-two punch event were anticipating something special on stage from some former childhood hip-hop favourites, but as Brother Ali has stated on record: "even if he opens for you, it's still his show." These words rang true on a night where the 250-pound albino MC had the crowd in the palm of one hand as he gripped the mic fiercely in the other. Cutting through jams like a hot knife through butter, Ali dropped hardcore knowledge deep down from his heart and sweated profusely while silencing the crowd with an intense spoken word dialogue on domestic abuse, and then led the crowd like a preacher leads his choir during the powerful chorus of "Star Quality." Whether getting under your skin a little with some heavy gospel or making you crack a smile as he explained why good-looking people are stupid, Ali knows how to command a stage like a heavyweight champion. Lucky for us that the rhymesayer left the crowd buzzing because it felt like two hours before anyone else crawled on stage. When Brand Nubian grabbed their mics, the crowd cheered and was ready to get down, but the trio thought it was a good idea to start the night off with a few jams off their new record, leaving the crowd unenthusiastic, with some even managing to sneak out for a cigarette break. And then it happened: the opening notes to "One for All" hit and everyone in the crowd went completely ape shit and rushed the stage like children chasing an ice cream truck. Everyone remembered why they were there and it continued as the Brand Nubes made grown men squeal with the superior remix version of "Punks Jump Up." Puba even managed to work in his solo "I Like It" gem. Edie Brickell never sounded as good as when Brand Nubian sent the crowd off for the night with "Slow Down," and never returned for an encore, leaving ticket-holders a little pissed and unfulfilled. Hip-hop reunions are fantastic and a chance for many to see the acts they grew up on again for the first time, but many are lacklustre and the groups seem bored. Brother Ali set the stage on fire and Brand Nubian stop, dropped and rolled on it. That ain't right.