By: Mehek Seyid (@whatthemehek) –
The second incarnation of the Under the Influence of Music tour, featuring headliners Wiz Khalifa and A$AP Rocky, hit Toronto’s Molson Amphitheatre last night in full force.
Wiz Khalifa’s set brought an even more passionate reaction out of the audience. Arriving on stage after a playing a commercial for his new line of Chuck Taylor’s that arrive later this month, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-native launched into a set packed with mixtape throwbacks, hit singles, and a few old school classics. As he performed tracks like “Bout Me”, “Ink My Whole Body”, “Taylor Gang”, “Say Yeah”, and “U.O.E.N.O”, it became more clear how significant of a place Wiz has carved out for himself in the rap game. This is especially true amongst the younger demographic that made up the majority of the audience, who were clambering onto chairs and crowding close to the front to soak in the rapper’s energy and rhymes as much as they could. Wiz embodied that sort of spirit that is fun, relatable and doesn’t take itself too seriously, so it’s not surprising to see so many young people revere him as much as they do.
Although his live band, which featured a vocalist, named Courtney, who used her stunning vocals for some of the hooks, were also strong in their efforts, they didn’t add enough to the show during its quieter moments. Even Wiz’s consistency in performance could not save the show from the loss of momentum, possibly because they just did not play out well in a larger setting, as they would have in a small club show. This changed when the opening to “Remember You” crept up into the audience’s ears while Toronto’s The Weeknd simultaneously strolled out to sing his part on the hit single from O.N.I.F.C., leading to a complete sensory overload. It’s not the first time the pair have performed the track together live, and could not have been a more perfect moment to resurrect the show. The Weeknd is a strong vocal performer, but it is a treat to see him really embracing his role as a special guest, especially in his hometown, feeding off of the cheers and reaching back out to stunned audience members desperately trying to absorb the hometown hero’s presence. TheWeeknd finished the song and embraced Wiz Khalifa as a friend and peer, quickly waved farewell, and disappeared into the dark, remaining as elusive as ever. This was definitely the highlight of the night.
Fortunately the pace of the show was back up to speed as Wiz performed the crowd pleasers “Molly” and Taylor Gang”, where he brought out his own crew of the same name. These tracks turned the show into what can be compared to a house jam, paired with a colourful laser show and a huge group of friends who acted as hype men, later joined by the A$AP Mob. At this point Wiz, their leader, had spent nearly 1.5 hours spinning and swinging around on stage in leather pants, his tattoo-covered body drenched in sweat, but he seemed more energetic than ever. By the time Wiz burst into show closers “Black and Yellow” and “Roll Up”, any of the show’s low points were simply a hazy memory.
After showing up at Drake’s OVO Fest earlier this week, it was exciting to see how A$AP could handle a full set on the very same stage. When A$AP performed in Toronto for the first time at The Opera House in January 2012, he brought his wild persona that was keen on fan interaction, crowd surfing and a larger than life stage presence, while only being backed by a DJ. Although his A$AP Mob and a full live band now accompanied him, A$AP’s approach is nearly identical to that of a small-scale show, and translates well onto larger stages.
His growing audience reinforced this, which has expanded significantly since the release of his debut album, Long Live A$AP, back in January. This factor could not have been more apparent as he performed tracks from the album including “PMW”, and “Goldie”, which garnered larger reactions than his performances of mixtape classics “Brand New Guy” and “Peso”. The vision of A$AP Rocky one day headlining arena tours came as the crowd rushed to the aisles to mosh during his Skrillex-collaborated performance of “Wild for the Night”, which found his crew members diving into the crowd and A$AP reveling in the intense energy against an LED screen that featured a mouth murmuring the trap vocals and flashes of a monochromatic American flag, similar to what can be seen on A$AP’s album covers Although A$AP teased the crowd and rated their reaction an eight, the genre crossing anthem demonstrated how hyped one could get at a rap show even when its content was not so conventionally hip-hop. Closing with the highly revered “Fuckin’ Problem”, the possibility of A$AP becoming the focus of larger shows suddenly seemed all too real, and so right as well.