Show Review: Blood Orange At The Danforth Music Hall

Story and Photos by Harry Myles

As the lights dimmed, a recording of Ashlee Haze reciting her poem, “For Coloured Girls (The Missy Elliot Poem),” played from the speakers. For a minute, the hall was silent save for the powerful words of Haze as the fans anxiously awaited the start of the show. A spotlight then shone upon a keyboard stationed at the far right of the stage, a white and black-clad Devonté (Dev) Hynes a.k.a Blood Orange seated at the keys. Dev played the melodic intro to “By Ourselves,” a calm beginning for what’s to come as a minute later he jumped from his chair and spun across the stage for the next hour and a half.

In a whirl of synth-filled, funk-infused hits, Blood Orange infected the crowd of the Danforth Music Hall with his wild moves and put on a truly exceptional show. I was first introduced to Dev Hynes about three years ago when his sophomore Blood Orange album, Cupid Deluxe, was released. At first, I thought the sound to be strange and disconcerting; a style I had never truly explored. But the more I listened, the more I became enthralled by the irresistible beats and the honesty of Hynes’ lyricism. Upon the release of Freetown Sound in 2016, I could barely contain my excitement at this latest addition to an already incredible discography. Suffice it to say, when I saw Blood Orange would be coming to the Danforth I knew I had to go and bought my ticket the first morning they went on sale.

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Dev Hynes, Photo by Harry Myles

 

On Wednesday, September 21, Hynes performed a minimalistic show, choosing to forgo an opener or an encore. On stage there were no elaborate set pieces, simply two white canvases at the centre surrounded by the accompanying band and background vocalists. However, these blank backdrops became a fixture of the set as Hynes stepped behind the screens for “Better Than Me,” his rhythmic silhouette grooving to the ecstatic beat. At other times, they became a projector screen to display various night scenes of New York, from aerial footage of the towering skyscrapers to the neon-lit streets sprinkled with trash. The pairing of the chaotic metropolis to the frantic pace of each song and Hynes’ splashy spins produced an immersive display that channeled the essence of Blood Orange. With each new song dripping of synth and seductive vocals, it seemed as if the pulsating vibe of a city night had been captured within the confines of the Danforth.

Displaying the musical prowess of his accompanying band, Hynes allowed the sax to swell and drums to rock at various points throughout the set while also shining the spotlight upon his stunning vocalists. As Freetown Sound features an array of collaborators from Nelly Furtado to Empress Of, Hynes enlisted his singers to tackle the solos of “Hadron Collider,” “Best to You,” and many more. Every song soared and highlighted the remarkable talent of Blood Orange to meld compassionate lyrics with contagious tunes. Fan favorites, like “You’re Not Good Enough” from Cupid Deluxe, saw the hall enthralled by the Michael Jackson-esque energy of Dev Hynes, which remained until the final chord of the set closer, “Uncle ACE.”  Walking through the streets after the show, my hands thumped my thighs and my feet still bounced to the long-gone beat. Blood Orange fulfilled every expectation and gave the audience a remarkable show. His passionate performance led some concert-goers to cry (as I later heard while snacking at the Pizza Pizza) and many more to leave with smiles on their faces, myself included.

 

 

 

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