Some would say it’s ridiculous to go to a different city just for a concert but hey, do ridiculous things when you’re young right (that’s a saying, I think?). This past week, I decided to hit up Toronto to see J. Cole, one of my absolute favorite artists who unfortunately didn’t have a Montreal stop on his 4 Your Eyez Only tour this year. Six hours and a lot of coffee later we arrived.
I stayed at the Super 8 in downtown Toronto, which on arrival seems incredibly sketchy considering it’s located in a Chinese shopping mall – but the room was clean, the location was great, and the staff were super friendly, so what more do you need? I’ve been to Toronto quite a few times, but only on this trip did I realize how much this city prides itself on its “the six” nickname – from gracing the names of cafés and restaurants to weed dispensaries, the puns were almost too much to handle.
Before the concert, we decided to hit up Susur Lee’s Fring’s for dinner, which happened to be only a ten-minute walk from the hotel. Bathroom doors adorned with “6ix Gods” and “6ix Goddesses”, cocktails named after Drake (the Aubrey Palmer, Worst Behaviour, etc.), and a giant neon sign down the first staircase when you walk through the doors suggest the restaurant clearly doesn’t want to shy away from affiliating itself with the Toronto rapper.
The restaurant décor is beautiful, with a mix of old world 1920s style and contemporary design. A huge bar centres the inside of the restaurant, and a patio to the side of the restaurant is also available. For a Friday night, it was a lot less crowded than expected, but I assume the vibe picks up later in the night. I can’t vouch for the whole menu since I didn’t stay for long, but I can say that the eggplant parmesan and miso salmon were both excellent. The service was pretty slow but was made up for by the courtesy and kindness of the servers, who were knowledgeable about both the menu and the city. As for drinks, I opted for the Burnt Grapefruit Manhattan, made with Drake’s personal whiskey brand, Virginia Black, which was surprisingly delicious. I say surprisingly because it was $18 and I thought that no drink could be worth $18, but I decided to order another after finishing my first so that probably says something.
A short Uber ride to the Air Canada Centre, playing Work Out out loud on my phone so my driver could figure out who I was going and see (“Oh OF COURSE I know that song!”), and sitting through some financial district traffic and I was finally able to
spend an embarrassing amount of money on tour merch get to my seat, just in time for Anderson .Paak to get onstage. His short set was great because his talent and stage-presence is undeniable, but having seen him just a few weeks ago at the Jazz Festival in Montreal I was a little underwhelmed (less songs, less energy) – but I guess that’s to be expected for an opener where you know most of the crowd is just waiting for the person they actually paid to see. Nonetheless, I was till excited that I got to see him perform again.
I’m the type of person who looks up setlists before concerts because I don’t want to be disappointed if an artist doesn’t sing a song I love, so that’s what I did. However, I apparently don’t know how to use the internet properly, because the list I went into the concert with in my mind was wrong, and I was so glad that it was. J. Cole has made it clear that he’s not a “play-only-the-hits-to-please-the-crowd” kind of performer, a sentiment he expressed again at the beginning of the show, so with that in mind I assumed that he would play the entirety of 4 Your Eyez Only, his latest release, and a few songs off 2014 Forest Hills Drive. I expected a pretty mellow concert, and having never seen him live before, wasn’t waiting for much crowd interaction. What I wasn’t expecting was him throwing in some older favorites like Can’t Get Enough, Nobody’s Perfect, and Power Trip – but I was pleasantly suprised to be able to belt out his older jams. I also am still not over the fact he included Love Yourz, because there’s just something about hearing a song live that has impacted you so much by the artist who did it, it’s really inexplicable. All in all, I think the setlist was smart and well thought-out, and definitely entertained both new and OG fans alike.
Littered between the songs were some life lessons dropped by Cole, that cheesy shit that people hate on him for but that I personally love, and some left-unsaid type of details like walking in dressed in a bright orange jumpsuit escorted by guards. Also, despite knowing the story behind Neighbours before, hearing him tell the story, accompanied by the security video footage of his home being unnecessarily raided by a swat team being played and narrated by Cole, was an experience in itself. To end the night, Cole performed the last song and title track off of 4 Your Eyez Only, giving the audience the ok to leave if they wanted to beat the traffic. Losers. I’m not a concert reviewer, but I have been to my fair share of shows, and I can honestly say this was one of the best performances I’ve seen, and would pay to see him perform again in a heartbeat.
Insert crappy-quality iPhone concert video in 3,2,…
That about summed up my less-than-24-hour trip to TO. I wish I could have explored the city more, but I had to be back in Montreal for the John Mulaney show at Just For Laughs the next day, so all that was left to do was to check out the next day, pick up some more coffee for the ride back, and replay the album a few too many times on the drive home. Let me know if you have any restaurant suggestions for the next time I hit up Toronto, I know I’ll be back soon enough.