Buck 65 Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, November 21

Buck 65 Danforth Music Hall, Toronto ON, November 21
Photo: Tiana Feng
Having been in the business of writing rhymes and rocking microphones from coast to coast for over 20 years, Buck 65 has become one of Canada's best-known hip-hop figures and storytellers. With his 16th full-length record, Neverlove, the man born Richard Terfry has faced the challenge of telling what might be his most difficult story yet. Inspired by a divorce in which he came home to find an abandoned wedding ring and a goodbye letter from his ex-wife, the record's material is every bit as emotional as one might imagine. Terfry returned to his current home of Toronto on Friday evening (November 21) to deliver a lengthy set to a packed Danforth Music Hall, and what followed was less a rap show than an incredibly diverse musical spectacle.

Taking to the stage with a four-piece backing band in tow, the man opened the show with recent fare, leading with the twitchy "Gates of Hell" before shifting into the humorous rhymes of the groovy "Zombie Delight." It seemed the line between business and party was ready to be blurred from the get-go, whether it was due to Terfry and company dressed in suit jackets or the man's mullet-inspired haircut. Introducing himself and his supporting cast of musicians as "Buck 65 plus Tax," Terfry wasted no time in raising the stakes of the evening's performance by inviting out a talented roster of supporting vocalists that included Toronto's own Adaline and Sweden's Tiger Rosa, adding welcome colour to the cautious shuffle of "Love Will Fuck You Up" and the delicate "Roses in the Rain," among others.

The backing band left the stage after serving up the classic "Wicked and Weird," leaving Terfry alone onstage accompanied by one turntable and a microphone. It was at this point that he pulled out some older cuts for the crowd, most notably with "Roses and Bluejays," "Bachelor of Science," and the classic "The Centaur" all being sonically reworked for Terfry to spit over. Sweating in his suit, he jumped effortlessly between turntable and microphone, scratching a single record that was run through a battery of echoes and reverbs. The crowd was enthralled by his precise rhythmic execution and flow, enunciating each word in his recognizable raspy vocal timbre. Terfry also stopped between some songs to provide commentary on his own writing, letting the audience have a look into his thought process. In one of the more emotional moments of the set, Terfry seemed visibly moved as he provided context for the downtrodden "Superhero In My Heart" before delivering a slow, sullen vocal performance.

The mood of the audience quickly changed thanks to an overdriven rendition of "463" that signalled the return of the backing band. The vocalists came back to join in for a grand finale of the sickeningly sweet "Super Pretty Naughty," a song that remains quite out of character as far as Terfry's back catalogue goes. But that strangeness is all a part of creating art as Buck 65. Much like his well-known song goes, Terfry's live show was more than able to give those in attendance the right balance of both the wicked and the weird from his musical world.

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