Live Review: Sonreal (2012 Vancouver International Jazz Festival) @ Venue – June 26th 2012

For me, my 2012 Vancouver International Jazz Festival (@vanjazzfest) got off to a ‘urban’ start. With a double bill, featuring two of Vancouver’s brightest urban musicians, SonReal and Kyprios had VENUE moving to the music well into the mild Tuesday night. Some were discovering a young artist on the ups, while others filled in late to see a Vancouver mainstay. Can you guess who is who?

As I walked into the Granville club that was hosting the night’s Jazz Fest festivities, I was unsure how the crowd was going to react to Sonreal’s set. Not to knock those who were there early, but
the average age was hovering around 35 when SonReal took the stage. I was shocked to see that, as advised by GoodLife Music rep Byron Wilson, the show got started right on time. Almost to the second. As the clock struck 8:30, DJ Rich A emerged from the green room with SonReal close behind him. Keeping up with his earlier sets, SonReal was high energy on-stage, and as always dressed for success. A quick scan of the crowd by SonReal showed him that tonight was going to be a battle.

When I say battle I don’t mean like Eminem in 8 Mile (I’m going to try to avoid more white rapper comparisons). I am referring to the fact that it was going to be a battle for SonReal to get the
crowd warmed up. If you have ever been to a SonReal show, I have been to a few, then you know that the rapper has a large following in the Lower Mainland, and the crowds he performs in front of reflects that. Tonight was NOT one of those nights. With a few mixtapes worth of tracks, and a soon to be released album Good News coming soon, SonReal had a large repertoire of songs to draw from to win himself some new fans. Mission accomplished.

The show started with a few SonReal fans, myself included, and Kyprios himself near the front of the stage. Lot’s of artists might have seen this low energy, and small showing of support as a reason to “mail it in”, not SonReal. SonReal was relishing in the moment on stage at the Jazz Festival. He knew tonight was a night to win some new fans. “I can tell a lot of ya’ll don’t know me.” he said in reference to that during the set. With DJ Rich A behind him, SonReal tore through one of the best sets I’ve seen the young artist perform.

As mentioned, SonReal has released a few stellar mixtapes in the past. Most recently, his tape Words I Said, hit the internet and has gotten him some attention around the blogosphere. As his set rolled along, SonReal jumped from the Words mixtape to the older tape Where’s Waldo?. It was clear by the time he played the track Haunted off of Where’s Waldo?, that he was winning the crowd over. The number of people in front of the stage doubled, then tripled, then the unthinkable happened, we all sang along for some crowd participation. Call me a pessimist, but I didn’t think SonReal was going to crack the crowd and get them involved. But like he keeps on doing, SonReal surprised me again on this night.

With his album Good News dropping in a few months, SonReal took this time on the VENUE stage to treat his old fans, and the new ones, to some tracks off of the yet to be released disc. Halfway through the track Up, Up, Up I was ready to get my hands on a copy of the album.

On this night at VENUE, SonReal was tasked with warming up the crowd. He did just that. For a better taste of what a SonReal show is like, be sure to head to Fortune Sound Club later this summer and go to his Good News album release show. The album, and the concert, are going to be standout moments in the Vancouver music scene this summer for sure.

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