The inconvenience of a Monday night didn’t stop the first Blood Orange show from being sold out. Seven minutes after the doors had opened, the crowd filed in, snagging the spots closest to the stage. With nothing but lights and instruments on stage, you knew that tonight was about the music being played, not about theatrics or fancy sets.

An hour after doors opened, the opening act started abruptly without warning. Yves Tumor, who looked striking in his bell bottoms and unbuttoned shirt, performed songs from his latest album Safe in the Hands of Love, including the crowd pleaser, “The Feeling When You Walk Away”. Tumor’s energy could be described as pervasive, raw, and somewhat confrontational. Many in the crowd hadn’t heard of him before, but his impassioned performance left the audience stunned. If you didn’t know him before, you did now. But with that being said, the venue’s sound system was not the friendliest to his music. The bass was boosted to a degree that obscured the rest of his music to the point where you could feel the sound but you couldn’t make it out. Nonetheless, the rhythm was discernible. Perhaps it was the novelty of the music to me, but it seemed like a cacophony that you happened to be able to jam to as well.

With a break longer than half an hour, the crowd’s impatience was finally appeased when Devonte Hynes, who goes by the moniker of Blood Orange, emerged on stage, humbly accepting Toronto’s warm welcome. He began with the track “Family”, which smoothly transitioned into “Saint”, both from his 2018 release Negro Swan. These tracks, coupled with the ethereal halo given to him by the lighting, set an uplifting tone for the night.  Unlike Tumor, Devonte Hynes shared the spotlight with others, including two backup singers & three other band members. Blood Orange’s performance was more sublime than expected. The crowd melted into the mellow vibes to the point where Hynes quipped, “You don’t have to be so quiet, Toronto.” Throughout the performance, the band members turned to one another, smiling and dancing to their own drum. When Ian Isiah performed his solo his band members shook their heads in disbelief and clapped admiringly. Watching the warm interactions between the band members removed the impersonal element of the performance. It felt as though the audience was privy to these collection of talented individuals privately coalescing their talents together while having a good time.

In the last half of the performance, the audience’s energy escalated as he played “Best to You” and his biggest hit “You’re Not Good Enough”. The latter song was popularised by its placement in the Netflix movie To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before. I would not be surprised if Blood Orange began appearing more often in mainstream media. Hynes’ talent and music definitely warrant the exposure. The message of Negro Swan, one of hope in the wake of ongoing anxieties faced by the queer community and people of colour, is one that undoubtedly deserves mainstream attention.

Blood Orange closed with “Smoke”, and then proceeded to thank Toronto for the sold out show. The audience was left wanting more, but Blood Orange did not oblige. He had already given us all we needed, a night to forget our adversities, music made for dancing, and a message of hope that we could latch onto for more than just one night.

Photo Credit: Jacob Himmelhoch

comments powered by Disqus