Shad / LIINKS Capital Ballroom, Victoria BC, February 23

Shad / LIINKS Capital Ballroom, Victoria BC, February 23
Photo: Amus Osaurus
Not one to forget the capital of British Columbia, Shadrach "Shad" Kabango ended his lengthy two-part tour in support of his 2018 album A Short Story About a War in Victoria. The Juno-winning, Polaris Music Prize mainstay is a noted fan of this city, claiming it has the perfect kind of audience, musically savvy yet genuinely enthusiastic.
LIINKS were the first to feel the love, as singer-songwriter Georgia Murray and DJ/producer Tony Day (aka DWHIZ) opened the show. The crowd seemed hesitant for the first 15 minutes of their set, forming a half-circle barrier around the dance floor, but after Murray gave a shout-out to the four people who eventually slotted themselves at the front of the stage, the space filled in quickly. She didn't have the most commanding stage presence, but she had a killer voice, somewhere between Christina Aguilera and Ace of Base's Jenny Berggren. The beats were solid too, bass-heavy electro-pop with tasty drops and DWHIZ adding scratch flourishes. They got things bouncing.
Shad kept the momentum going, working up a sweat as he was locked in the zone for the last day of his tour. This was his first proper trek in years, the first he embarked on after the birth of his daughter, but he clearly hasn't gone soft. In fact, he was harder than ever.
A Short Story About a War is a concept album about a desert planet in fighting a perpetual war, viewing this senseless tragedy through the eyes of all sorts of characters: stone throwers, snipers, the establishment and the fool. To bring the darker edge of this to life, something more in line with Death Grips than De La Soul, he pared down his band instrumentally. While DJ T.Lo did his usual thing on the wheels of steel, Ian Koiter, who traditionally plays bass guitar, only played a couple of synths, and drummer Matthew Johnston beat down a Roland sampling pads instead of slapping skins. Shad himself has been known to throw down a little guitar, but his energy all went through the mic this time.
It wasn't all War, though. He sprinkled heavy doses of catalogue throughout his set, half-jokingly saying that those who only play new songs are bad people. He pulled in set favourites like "Compromise" from The Old Prince and "Rose Garden" from TSOL, alongside "Stylin'" from Flying Colours, balancing the apocalyptic tones of War with the feel-good throwback hip-hop style on which most of his catalogue draws.
The good vibes were certainly reciprocated by the crowd as, about halfway through his set, he received a drawing of himself, a portrait, with words on the back expressing thanks to him for making conscious art. At the same time, someone threw down a shirt with the title of "The Old Prince Still Lives at Home" printed in the style of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air title card, the TV show that was parodied for that track's video.
Demonstrating the very consciousness for which he was praised, he launched into "Fam Jam (Fe Sum Immigrins)," his heartfelt ode to immigrants, followed by "Keep Shining," his song celebrating women and pushing for more female rappers. In case you didn't know, Shad is woke as fuck. That's a big part of why he's so damned likeable.
His encore was indebted to George Stroumboulopoulos, who'd asked Shad to do a cover for The Strombo Show. Instead, he produced an updated version of "Stakes Is High" by De La Soul. Joined only by DJ T.Lo, Shad brought the Jay Dee-produced track up to 2019 relevancy with references to vaping, Uber, Instagram and touchscreens, among other things. The crowd showed how onside they were with it as they belted out all the talkback lines he threw at them.
Shad left the stage on a rendition of "Exile" from The Old Prince, sending the crowd home with the last line of the hook, "Don't succumb to hate, overcome hate with love." For all of the ominous apocalyptic vibes of A Short Story About a War, that is really what Shad is about, rising above the bitter grime of daily life with humour and awareness, and bringing others up with him. Hip-hop for the soul.

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