Noname with Elton Aura at the Commodore Ballroom, 3/13/19
Canadians have a reputation for being overly polite. So much so that if you Google “Canadian meme,” you’ll come across more examples of us being mocked for politeness than you will of the cold temperatures, hockey or beer combined.
It was a stereotypically well-mannered crowd that welcomed rapper and neo-soul singer Noname to Vancouver with open arms on Tuesday evening when she played the Commodore Ballroom.
Up and coming renaissance vocalist Elton Aura got things going early on with an energetic set and some tried, tested and true crowd participation. He wore a green jacket over a yellow shirt with lightly checkered jeans and he owned the festive vibe like a champ, bounding back and forth across the stage while delivering the lyrical equivalent of a cobb salad. Well composed little bites of everything. By the end of his 40-minute set, he had the room smiling and head bobbing and all warmed up for Fatimah Warner.
Warner has been performing under the moniker Noname since March 2016, and before that as Noname Gypsy. Classified commercially as a rapper or hip-hop artist, Warner is first and foremost a poetic storyteller. Drawn to music through slam poetry, she quickly built a network and reputation in the Chicago scene. She is currently touring in support of her latest release Room 25, which has received praise from critics worldwide.
The crowd was cheering as she bounced onto the stage in front of her band and backing vocalists and, with gentle authority, delivered the first song of the evening, “Self.” It was perfect. No other song better encapsulates the intoxicating concoction of effervescence and bad-assery that masquerades as Noname.
The audience was smitten. So much so that they were considerably less boisterous than the Chicago native was used to. Before heading into the third song of the evening, “Diddy Bop,” she demanded that they “make some fuckin’ noise.” Later she looked into the crowd and inquired, “Vancouver, you here?”
Rest assured, there were plenty of fans in the room. They were lip syncing along with her, swaying together to the funky, jazzy music, drenched in soul. They were just being Canadian, politely letting the spotlight shine where it was meant to. Perhaps she simply has no idea how captivating she is.
Her voice is soft, her words are wise, and they spill out of her fast. She is swift and commanding and somehow remains raw and honest and emotionally accessible. One minute she’s chiding the audience not to applaud until she says “some clever shit,” and later she’s sharing an emotional moment before breaking into “Bye-Bye-Baby.”
Warner’s set was short and sweet – a 19 song collection that showcased nearly every track off her newest album while offering an ample sampling of the earlier works that have made her one of the most relevant stars in the world of hip-hop. It wouldn’t be surprising at all if that’s where she remains for years to come.