By Aurora Zboch
R&B-pop princess Jessie Reyez blessed her hometown with a wildly intimate show on Oct. 21 to close the 2019 Red Bull Music Festival. She both surprised and beguiled a sold-out crowd at the Winter Garden Theatre with a dramatic production start to finish.
The spectacle began with what looked to be a doctor and medical team rolling out Reyez in a straitjacket. She belted out“Shutter Island” to set off back-to-back, hard-hitting tracks with her memorable bars and infectious attitude. Her brassy vocal runs brought chilling climaxes to every track, including favourites “Imported,” “Apple Juice,” “Gatekeeper” and “Fuck Being Friends.”
“Are you entertained?” she asked, though not before moaning “Oh Toronto, oh Toronto!” to the sold-out venue.
Reyez took fans along on an emotional rollercoaster across an extensive range of influences. For every vulgarity, she displayed a moment of vulnerability. The action found no respite even when it was just Reyez giving the real talk behind her unapologetic lyrics, as actors accented a story for nearly every song. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra also joined the backing band with lush arrangements. She also debuted a new song about family love, with talk of an upcoming full-length album.
Special musical guests teased the percussive soulfulness of what was to come: an opera singer trilling “amore…” and a local Latin ensemble, who later returned on stage with Reyez for a dedicated part of her set in Spanish. The drama got real for a performance of “Far Away,” complete with a reenactment of a family separation at southern borders.
Before performing her biggest hit, “Figures”—which she has also called her saddest—she likened performing such tracks to poking a wound with needles. Reyez shone effortlessly in an oversized tee and messy bun, and the audience carried her brassy vocal runs as she played acoustic guitar. She was thankful for fans “doing the most” to support her and left them wishing for more room and time to dance.
Jessie Reyez proved she’s continuing a volatile trajectory, and she’s got plenty of hometown fans who are here to ride or die.Jessie Reyez, Red Bull Music Festival