Empress Of Brought Unvarnished Joy to Toronto

Drake Underground, May 30

With Quarterback Baby

Photo: Matt Forsythe

BY Josh KorngutPublished May 31, 2024

Empress Of, aka Lorely Rodriguez, is no longer just an opening act. After years of touring with pop heavyweights like Carly Rae Jepsen and Rina Sawayama, the Honduran-American artist is breaking through with the help of this year's excellent For Your Consideration, a pulsating, infectious mix of experimental pop and modern Latin dance music.

Rodriguez brought these songs and more to Toronto's Drake Underground on May 30 for the first of a sold-out three-show run. The concert was part of a grouping of club performances likely preparing the alt-pop star for a larger tour. While confident, the show did give off an air of workshop, an unfinished experience that was somewhat rough at its edges.

Toronto-based artist Quarterback Baby was the night's excellent opening act, a pop star in the making who dominated the small space with massive energy. Queer, body-positive and exceptionally sexy, he was impossible to look away from as he tore through his set — which included recent single "hit it right" — and is all but guaranteed to become the next big thing. A new queer act with so much magnetism, talent and confidence that somebody should sign him to a major record label immediately, he nearly stole the entire show.

From the moment Rodriguez took the stage, her vocals were immaculate, demanding the attention of her small yet enthralled crowd. The star power was immediate and indisputable, and her panting, futuristic pop beats filled the small venue like someone was shaking us up in a pop can. However, a lack of diverse choreography and a tightly rehearsed physical performance gave the show a feeling of being in-process, still on its way to stadium-sized polish.

Understandably, a small show with no backup dancers should be minimal in presentation. Still, a few extra hat tricks could help Rodriguez avoid repeating familiar hair choreography over an entire hour's set. Workshop energy aside, live music from Empress Of is a recommendable experience in a small venue. She'll be filling larger rooms soon, so if you can catch her at a club, it's an excellent arena for fans of underground pop and rising talent to witness Rodriguez perform. While her previous releases are each noteworthy, For Your Consideration is undoubtedly her arrival as one of alt-pop's main characters, and these songs are even more joyous when heard in real life.

While the first of three Drake Underground shows may not have represented the tightness and sparkling perfection of Empress Of's latest LP, it was still an exciting show for fans of Rodriguez and the inclusive underground-pop community that she's expanding by the minute. 

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