“Hello? Hello? Hello? Too loud. Too Loud. Too Loud.”

Photo Credit: Russell Canceran
Photo Credit: Russell Canceran

The first lines of Kilo Kish’s enigmatic opening track “Thank You” rang out loud and clear in the Phoenix Concert Hall on March 24. The lights lifted slowly on the stage to reveal Kish sitting at a desk and reading a newspaper with an accent-red telephone beside her. She then launched into the introductory second track “Hello, Lakisha.” Both songs make up the first two tracks on her debut solo album, Reflections in Real Time (2016).

Kilo Kish combines a theatrical knack for performance-based art with a haunting ability to showcase her personal experiences. It creates an experience that you relate to, but are also forced to confront the fact that it is not you. Each of the props on the stage are deliberately chosen to accent the thematic elements of Kish’s music. At times, she picks up the phone and talks into it. At other times, she holds a briefcase that matches her perfectly tailored suit. Standing in front of the mic, she opens it and tears into the newspaper inside, shredding it as she falls to the floor. Kilo Kish brings a formal form of artistry to her music and performance that creates the perfect juxtaposition between her and headliner Vince Staples.

Photo Credit: Russell Canceran
Photo Credit: Russell Canceran

With the high energy and bravado that the enigmatic Vince Staples performs with, you would not believe he was on the second half of a 26-city tour. After the theatrical and artful performance of the evening’s opening act, the fans were appropriately primed for a head-bobbing and hand-waving performance. Vince Staples did not disappoint, and delivered a performance that matched the enthusiasm of the crowd.

The audience was in hysterics from the get-go as the stage lights slowly flashed on and the intro for the bass-heavy “Prima Donna” rang throughout the venue. Staples did not waste a single minute and rapped the first verse with an unreal potency that appropriately set the mood for the rest of his set. Making full use of the stage, he did not fail to get the audience jumping with notable tracks “Smile” and “Lift Me Up.” Backed by stage lighting that shifted with every beat and screens that flashed aquatic scenes (matching the theme of the Life Aquatic Tour), Staples continued to prove that he is one of the premier live rap performers.

Vince Staples’s ability to describe his harsh lived experiences through dexterous lyricism continue to be a defining characteristic of his sound. Even when performing faster-paced tracks such as “Surf ” and “Señorita,” the Long Beach rapper did not miss a single beat. Also known for his musical versatility, Staples performed his collaborations “Smoke & Retribution” with electronic producer Flume, and “Ghost” with Switch, formerly half of Major Lazer. These tracks were immediately followed up with the militant “War Ready,” which transformed the brewing mosh pit into a massive circle that took up the center of the venue.

The rapper ended his set on a high with the audience singing along to every word of “Blue Suede” and Staples exclaiming his love for Toronto. However, the performance was immediately followed with the audience screaming for an encore. Staples obliged and played a two-song encore that featured the banger “Norf Norf ” and the melodic ballad “Summertime.” His performance provided a whole spectrum of musicality, emotion and moods that make him a standout in the genre of Hip-Hop.

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