The appeal of R&B solo artist and producer The-Dream is undeniable. Reinforcing the mythology of Def Jam’s Radio Killa Records, Terius Youngdell "I wanna change your name to Mrs." Nash, brought an effortless power and charm to Flames Central this Saturday, September 28. Fresh from his stint at Pop Montreal, The-Dream performed his second Canadian show to date, delivering a rare mix of explicit lyrics and force of presence to a mix of couples and crews of hand-holding women. Backed by a three-piece band and rave-worthy lighting, The-Dream leaned heavily on hits from the Love Trilogy — 2007's Love Hate, 2009's Love King and 2010's Love vs. Money. Opening with “Holy Love” and “Dope Bitch,” The-Dream posed casually onstage in a black on black tunic and dark sunglasses, transforming the dance floor into a mass of fawning fan-girls screaming and reaching out to touch the auteur’s hand.
While Nash’s critical success spawns from co-writing songs including Beyoncé’s "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)", Rihanna’s “Umbrella,” Rick Ross’s “All I Really Want,” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” his solo effort lacks similar mass appeal. Channeling Prince, The-Dream moved seamlessly between “Fast Car” and “Nikki,” accenting his hold on the audience with understated hip-swaying and the periodic shout-out to the ladies. The depth of his voice in “Walking On The Moon” reached such peaks that women who had set their outfits and make-up guns to “clubzone,” and men in radiant, black bedazzled t-shirts, were periodically inspired to look beyond Instagram and at the man himself. The energy poured into his performance appeared boundless, with a single bead of sweat streaming down his face at times resembling a well-timed tear intended to accentuate “My Love,” complete with Mariah Carey’s disembodied back-up vocals.
Notably, in the midst of slow-jam “Too Early” a fist fight between two groups of women (the second I witnessed that night) broke out in front of the stage. The-Dream stopped the show while security guards pried the girls apart to a backdrop of something along the lines of “that’s what you get, bitch!” Unphased by the interruption, The-Dream deftly addressed the audience saying “come on, this ain’t no rap show… we here to fuck,” words so perfectly in line with this lush, just-want-to-bed-you branch of R&B that throngs of women pushed themselves closer to his gold mic stand, vying to touch the crotch of his leather pants at centre ice. Melding “Fancy” and “Right Side Of The Brain,” The-Dream soothed any tensions left in the air, closing out the show with the "empowerment" ballad “Ditch That.” Upon exiting the stage his backing band tried to hype up a dwindling room full of people staring into phones, at which point The-Dream introduced himself back on and soon had women singing “take me I’m yours Shawty” in an extended version of his hit “Rockin’ That Shit.”
I didn’t anticipate this show being as intimate as it was. With the least expensive ticket running $55 and sparse street level promotion, Flames Central rested at a quarter capacity throughout the night. With most people hanging back grinding their respective such-and-such, I was afforded the rare opportunity to witness a raw and powerful artists, performing at capacity despite the lackluster turnout. I just wish more people had seen it too.