I was trepidatious going into Tinashe’s tour wrap-up show at the Vogue Theatre last Sunday. Her long-delayed, longer-awaited second album, Joyride, still hadn’t been released and faced yet another postponement: five days prior, she announced the cancellation of her international tour due to “unexpected recording commitments.” My instant thought: label-mandated rewrites.
But with a dazzlingly choreographed light show to match a squad of professional dancers and moveable stage-pieces, live drums and keys, numerous costume changes, fluid ebbs and flows between high energy and personal tenderness, Tinashe more than delivered the goods.
Opener Blackbear cranked the hype from the get-go. With an amazing, magnetic drummer (a show in himself) and a DJ/human T-shirt cannon, the L.A. rapper’s focus clearly wasn’t on lyrics – or a general finesse with words. He introduced his songs bluntly: “This song is about pussy. It’s called ‘Slide Through‘”. Not to exclude anyone, he traversed the other end of the genitalia spectrum: “This is the part of the set where I sing a song about my penis.” In an appropriately phallic gesture, he took up the guitar to sing his G-Eazy collaboration, “90210”. And then there was “Don’t Stop (Help)”, a song “about drinking too much and fucking people you don’t want to fuck.”
And how hard does Blackbear party? He was recently hospitalized for 10 days for excessive drinking – and a bout of pancreatitis. But when he was offered a chance to tour with Tinashe, he said, “Fuck yeah!” And there he was, moving and rapping like nothing ailed him.
Blackbear didn’t seem to know the word “subtlety,” but he for sure knew how to work the crowd, even though he did so largely through cheap pops. “This is my first time playing in Vancouver!” The crowd cheered. “And I like it a fuck lot more than Toronto, I tell you!” The crowd roared. And before wrapping up with “IDFC“, he hyped the crowd one more time: “Let’s all bounce to this one!” The balcony, like the floor, wasn’t full, but I could feel my seat shake.
The words “NO TURNING BACK NOW” appeared on a crystal clear LED screen as visuals of landscapes rushed by. A multipart mini-stage stood in front of it, with two large detached cubes pushed against six steps leading up to a rectangular platform. “PREPARE FOR A JOYRIDE,“ the screen flashed in tandem with a dramatic blast of synth and snap of drums.
Tinashe, flanked by four female dancers, opened with “Ride of Your Life”. Already, four columns of smoke shot up from the front edge of the stage. By the next song, “Party Favors”, the crowd was leading the chorus.
Tinashe had moves, but her crew was on another level. They used every inch of the stage, running around, jumping from the top of the steps, slinking, rolling, crawling, and spreading their legs all over it, rocking back and forth on all fours. They kicked one leg vertically into the air, grabbed it, and like a guillotine slammed right down into splits. “Don’t stop looking at me,” Tinashe sang bathed in sinister red light on “Vulnerable”. But I couldn’t keep my off of her dancers.
Tinashe and her dancers rearranged the mini-stage as often as they changed outfits. (At one point, she traded her cargo pants and jacket for a stockings-liking one-piece.) They moved the blocks to each side of the stage, each becoming a personal stage for a single dancer. They brought out chairs as part of their routine. They even moved the blocks in front of the steps to create a mini-catwalk as Tinashe excitedly announced, “I’m gonna do something else special for y’all. This isn’t even out yet. This is an exclusive.” That special something was another new track from Joyride, “Touch Pass”.
Despite the amazing physical (and technical) displays, some of Tinashe’s finest moments found her alone at the microphone, without so much of the hectic flash and bang.
But she still grooved and threw her hands as she slowed things down on songs including “Bet”.
She seemed to wind down, seated on a stool in the middle of the floor, with “That’s the Way Love Goes” and “That Same Old Love“. Only luminous keyboard accompanied her.
But the second she finished that pair of songs, Azealia Banks’ “212” started blasting. The adrenaline spiked; the crowd came unglued as one dancer at a time popped up at the top of the steps. Graffiti font sprayed across a brick wall spelled each dancer’s name on the screen behind her, and she had her personal moment to shine, showing off her moves before the song changed to introduce the next girl.
Tinashe couldn’t turn her fans out without letting them hear her biggest hit, “All Hands on Deck”, which she followed with “All My Friends”. The crowded chanted the entire chorus themselves: “All my friends are wasted / And I hate this club / Man, I drink too much / Another Friday night I wasted / My eyes are black and red / I’m crawling back to you.“
Nearing the end of the show, and the tour, Tinashe and her dancers each brought out a bottle of champagne. They popped and sprayed the crowd before chasing each other and trying to cover each other in bubbly. The celebration ended with Tinashe taking a final swig and pouring the rest of her champagne all over head.
After a quick mop-up in the dark by a lone stagehand, they returned one final time for the encore, “2 On”. Tinashe had dried off, her green robe apropos of Schoolboy Q appearing on the big-screen rapping, “Money money money weed fashion.”
Not even Tinashe seems to know when Joyride will finally come out, but with an electrifying, visually and emotionally dynamic live performance, she’s certainly set her loyal fans’ anticipation on the fast-track.