Jessie Reyez Finally Took Her Victory Lap in Toronto

History, November 28

Photo: Stephen McGill

BY Vernon AyikuPublished Nov 29, 2022

When Jessie Reyez spoke with Exclaim! back in September before the release of her second studio album, Yessie, her mandate was clear: she wanted to "fucking win." Two sold-out shows in her hometown later, she can proudly claim victory.

The songwriter kicked off her brief, celebratory Toronto residency on Monday night with all the eagerness of a college athlete at homecoming, and the Yessie tour's three distinct emotional tentpoles — passion, gratitude and love — were on full display during different portions of her set.

Looking back at her last two years, it's easy to understand why Reyez's return to the city was emotionally charged: she released her debut Before Love Came to Kill Us during the height of the pandemic, while she was still being introduced to mainstream audiences. At her current level of stardom, Reyez hasn't really had the chance to tour her music, let alone play her hometown as a bonafide superstar. 
Mix that with all the usual jitters that come with headlining a show in the city you grew up in, and you get the Yessie tour. From the moment she danced into the spotlight and touched the mic — her face barely visible as she sang the opening verse of "MOOD" in a near trance — it felt like something special was happening. Reyez herself promised the show would be extraordinary, immediately coming out the gate at 10 and pushing past 11 as the night continued. Determined to leave it all on the stage, watching her empty the vocal tank only 15 minutes into the set as she unleashed "Queen Street West" and "Only One," there was genuine fear she would blow her voice before the night was done.

Luckily, that wasn't the case, and Reyez eased into the show's more intimate second segment after blowing the doors off their hinges in the first. Inviting the audience into the show without letting up vocally, Reyez frequently stopped to learn the names of various eager fans yelling praises and throwing bras at her. At one point, Reyez even redirected the setlist altogether to play requested B-sides for the now braless and frantic fans. 

Throughout this fan-to-artist love fest, Reyez repeatedly showed gratitude and patience, genuinely thanking those in attendance for allowing her to make a living doing what she loves. Somewhere during the gushiness, Reyez also declared the show was a singalong, laying the ground rules for the night: sing if you feel like singing, dance even if you cannot dance, or just nod your head and enjoy the music if you're an introvert and that's what you're into. While the message wasn't some groundbreaking revelation, it was still refreshing to hear an artist tell the crowd to come as they were and enjoy the show however they felt fit.

With the vibes fully set, Reyez dove into the final segment of the show, showing the love by playing her most popular hits alongside more early B-sides for the day-one fans. The phones in the crowd slowly started to drop as the audience soaked in the moment with Reyez. Fans cried as she sang their favourite breakup songs, screamed as she belted their empowerment anthems, and cheered as she dropped banger after banger. Reyez filled the room with whatever spirit had come over her that night.  

With the crowd already satisfied, Reyez returned and did a surprise rendition of Dua Lipa's multi-platinum hit "One Kiss," a song Reyez proudly declared she wrote. She then wrapped up the night  with the track that put her on the map, "Figures." Cutting the stage lights and suddenly alone on stage with just a guitar, the crowd lit the room with their phone lights as a visibly emotional Reyez turned the mic towards the audience for one final singalong. As the crowd swayed and sang, Reyez told them that she wrote "Figures" while in the depths of depression, hugging herself and bursting into tears before saying one last thank-you to the fans for allowing it to be the song that made her dreams come true.

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