Le1f Reflections Cabaret, Halifax NS, May 24
Published May 25, 2014"This would be a great show if I could see or hear it."
I had two different individuals say some variation of that quote to me last night, so clearly I wasn't alone in being disappointed by how Le1f's set at the OBEY Convention festival turned out. The clever and engaging New York rapper, making his first appearance in Halifax, attracted a sizable crowd to Reflections Cabaret for his set, only to be befuddled by sound issues and poor lighting that rendered the show a complete wash if you weren't directly in front of the stage.
It was clear something was up when Le1f took the stage shortly after 11:30 to a huge crowd response, only to depart a couple of verses into his first song. He returned to start the show proper about 10 minutes later, but the vocal audio remained buried in the mix throughout the entire set and was regularly punctured by sharp feedback (which, unlike with most of OBEY's avant-garde acts, was decidedly unintentional). If these issues were present during the fun, '80s-tinged set by a sparkle-covered Jef Barbara that preceded Le1f, they weren't nearly as debilitating. Everyone — Le1f, his DJ, venue staff, the sound guy — was visibly trying to figure out what the issue was, but they never truly solved it: even when it came time for an encore, there was another awkward false start and delay until they just soldiered through.
The most frustrating part is that Le1f was, by all appearances, an incredibly entertaining performer. Loose and nimble, he exuberantly bounded across the stage, with dance moves that got ample props from the crowd. Those who were close enough to the stage to be caught up in the physicality of it all were having a blast, but anyone standing more than 50 feet back struggled not only to hear the show but also to see it; the stage was darkly lit, keeping the audience from being able to truly experience Le1f's valiant effort to make a troubled show work. Here's hoping he comes back to Halifax in the near future so we can see and hear him again (for the first time).