Melanie Fiona Phoenix Concert Hall, Toronto ON, May 3
Published May 04, 2013Melanie Fiona can flat out sing. And perform. And carry a show. And has the award hardware to back it up. So what gives? Why isn't Fiona a bigger star in Canada? During an extended and powerful set at Toronto's Phoenix Concert Hall, one gets the sense that the two-time Grammy winner and recent Juno award recipient probably should be playing arenas by now. As it stands, the Toronto native seems content with her lot in MF life (which stands for Mother Fucking or her initials, depending on who's asking) at the moment.
"Toronto will always be home but I left to follow my dreams," the Los Angeles/New York-based artist said at the start of the set. Decked in jean short shorts and impossibly tall black boots, Fiona and her six-piece band launched into cuts from her debut project The Bridge and 2012's The MF Life. Fiona's pitch perfect voice — marred a bit by the less than perfect sound of the venue — coupled with her magnetic stage presence powered a 70-plus minute set.
Defining Fiona's sound is a tricky one – her obvious R&B, hip-hop, rock and Caribbean music influences make her both versatile and hard to slot in a particular category. All of her well-known and radio-friendly hits made an appearance — "Give it to Me Right," "Monday Morning," "It Kills Me" — including a slick reworking of her Grammy-winning Cee Lo Green collaboration "Fool for You" and Caribbean-flavoured "Ay Yo," in which she broke out the West Indian patois and got rags and arms waving in unison.
After teasing the show's end with "4 a.m.," she appeared on stage with a surprisingly reverent version of Drake's "Started from the Bottom," a nod to her friendship and previous working relationship with the hit-maker and former bandmate (the short-lived group called the Renaissance years back). She would then dive into "I Been That Girl," the Drake/Fiona collaboration off The MF Life. "I've been performing concerts every day this week and I've lost my voice. Your energy brought my voice back," she told the appreciative crowd before doing a quick all-request set where audience members implored her to sing the lesser-known tracks from her discography. Closing things out was the Juno Award-winning "Gone and Never Coming Back," a solid power ballad that demonstrates both her singing and songwriting abilities. Fiona is a star, but not a superstar yet. But on this night she proved that the statement might not be a true one much longer.