I fucking love Danny Brown.
Of all the Kendricks, A$APs, Sweatshirts, and Bronsons of the 2011 new school mixtape renaissance, I can now guarantee you with complete and utter confidence that Brown is a better live performer than all of them.
When he blew up right around that time,Danny’s stage antics were something akin to Iggy Pop, rowdy, often times highly inebriated, and a key proponent that catapulted him to purist/indie respect. Now, approaching 40, Brown has calmed down significantly. He’s got a syndicated talk show, fixed his teeth, and cut his hair. And with this new persona comes a new level of focus and commitment to performance like what was delivered in Toronto on Wednesday. Most people have seen Danny Brown on massive festival stages or opening arena tours for artists like A$AP Rocky. Now playing at The Phoenix, a tight venue on the outskirts of downtown, fans got their up close experience of the legendary Detroit MC.
It was the last stop on his Uknowhatimsayin Tour and from the second Brown hit the stage the roaring did not stop. As he ran through a well curated set showing off the wide range of sound he achieved in the second half of his career, there was not a dull moment. There wasn’t even time to catch two breaths between songs. “Ain’t it Funny”, “Really Doe”, and “Black Brad Pitt” take on new life in their live format with Brown’s unique voice front and centre, sounding even more magnificent than it does on record. Brown need not trip over the mic cable or stop verses to call out the crowd to create a loose energy like in his XXX days. In fact, after last night I am convinced of how much better, or high energy these songs sound when played straight. Brown doesn’t miss a word, and neither did the fans.
The response was clear. For what seemed like the fastest hour and twenty minutes in an incredible year of concerts, The Phoenix had a crowd that could light up a stadium. His new archetype doesn’t so much as wile out like before. Now, he pushes to make us do that. A chorus of diehards in the crowd rapped every lyric as Brown’s brass voice cut through. A full mosh broke out for Rustie collab “Attak”, call and response lyrics to Brown’s whirling shit talker “Monopoly” and beautiful throwback “Grown Up” became second nature, and motherfuckers were crowd surfing during “Savage Nomad”. Brown’s DJ, Skylar supplied beats that ranged from 90’s rap, to industrial, to trap translating to a diversity of bangers. Credit is deserved for the sound team whose near perfect mix had the P.A. knocking and every word audible.
After the second last song, Brown even took to the front of the stage to shoot the breeze. Almost aloof after performing a 20 song set described as “one of the hardest shows (he’s) ever played in his life,” to “one of the best crowds on this tour,” he stopped the show to riff on the poutine he ate offered by a curry shop in Montreal the night before with characteristic jokes and cackles. Brown launched into “Best Life” and left to a still full audience chanting his name, who immediately ran to coat check as soon as it was clear there would be no encore. At this point it had become undeniable, Danny Brown had given the fans what they wanted.