Canadian singer-songwriter Daniel Caesar tends to dip in and out of the music stratosphere, whether it’s due to backlash over his words or the pressures that come with his newfound fame. Since the release of his 2017 debut ‘Freudian’, he has been championed for blending elements of gospel, R&B and neo-soul while serenading the masses with vocals akin to a lullaby.
As he ploughed through the second leg of his CASE STUDY 01 tour, named after his sophomore effort released last June, he made his third and final appearance in the UK on a cloudy Wednesday, giving us a performance that matched the beauty of his catalogue. Read on as we capture the essence of Daniel Caesar for one night only in O2 Academy Brixton.
“This is crazy” I remarked to Aliyah – our photographer for the night – as I completely forgot about Future, Young Thug and most recently Tyler, The Creator’s (x3) sold out nights here. The crucial difference here was that I couldn’t tell you how many times I had seen an R&B show at the O2 Academy, let alone one with a queue that went around the entire building. Hordes of ladies young and old alike flocked among many couples as the building slowly filled, in high anticipation of feels and the soulful vibes that I rarely get to experience in this venue.
Regrettably, 19 year old breakout dancehall sensation Koffee was not billed to appear tonight despite supporting Daniel’s tour. However the crowd was left in the capable hands of the entrée act of the night, London based alt soul singer anaïs. Her music is an extension of her soul and experiences, and the growing crowd could feel the air of a free spirit, which was clearly on display as she stood beside her drummer and guitarist. The hypnotising green and purple backdrop swirled, enchanting the crowd in the process as she ran through her impressive debut album ‘Darkness at Play’. Whether singing in English or French (her parents originate from Senegal) her voice soothed sections of the crowd that had restlessly queued for hours. anaïs‘ lyricism reflects the nomadic nature of her teen years, in which her travels could be construed for escapism from difficult moments and isolation. Leaving the stage to warm applause and cheers, she had set the tone for a viscerally charged night.
Soon enough, the crowd grew restless again in anticipation. Couples strategically positioned themselves so they could canoodle as they looked on at the vacant stage. The voices in the room got louder, the air warmer and soft harmonising filled the room at 9:15pm as our shy looking headliner made it to the stage. Loud screams pierced my ear drums and clothes were scattered as Daniel crooned in his native Patois to the smooth sounds of ‘CYANIDE’; which is a subtle nod to the toxic nature of the bond he depicts in the song. Before we could bask in the ambience of the warm red hue, he pulled a trump card in the form of the aforementioned Koffee joining him for her verse on the remix. She left to rapturous applause as Daniel took a minute to survey his adoring crowd before he got into his excellent duet ‘LOVE AGAIN’; sadly he wasn’t able to pull Brandy out of a magic hat. This time the room fell still as his band, silhouetted by the large curtains thus mirroring ‘CASE STUDY 01’s album art, took us to the height of 90’s R&B nostalgia.
Daniel’s demeanour on stage resembled that of a reserved, sensitive soul who wore his appreciation with a wry smile. He lacks a physical presence but he doesn’t need it! Armed with his mic stand and a stool, he took us to church with ‘RESTORE THE FEELING’ as he was heartily joined on stage by featured artists Sean Leon and London’s own Jacob Collier. Once we got to a blend of ‘COMPLEXITIES’ and ‘Hold Me Down’ taken from 2017’s Grammy nominated ‘Freudian’, the room started changing before my eyes. “If you love me, baby let me hear you say it, I know I’m your favourite” sounded around the room and the crowd swayed in perfect motion. I felt like I was on a beach floor, feeling the tide gently caress the sand and my toes.
The transitions pulled at heart strings as his cadence and pen game invited a plethora of different feelings in the room. As Aliyah and I witnessed friends and lovers embrace, we were enthralled by the performance of this Canadian starlet, despite the efforts of some out of tune attendants. It was at this moment that Daniel Caesar hit us with the two piece combo that is ‘Get You’, with a rolling image of Kali Uchis, and ‘Best Part’ that features burgeoning R&B talent H.E.R.. As a single man, I rued not buying a ticket for a sweet lady to join me, the odes to love and appreciation would’ve resonated in that space. But just to feel the emotion and enthusiasm in the room would have warmed even Scrooge’s heart.
Caesar made his way off stage after nailing ‘SUPERPOSITION’ a song that captures the essence of what ‘CASE STUDY 01’ is about. A reflection on love, his life and the complications that are borne from people (or waves) colliding. Such is the phenomenon of a’ superposition’. He walked off into a dark abyss, silently pining for an encore. The room was anything but silent as it felt like we screamed, cheered and wolf whistled for an age. With ‘Japanese Denim’ on his mind, the 24 year old re-joined us for a generous encore, guitar in hand. For me the moment of the night was contained in a trifecta started off with a dedication to the stoners in the room (‘ARE YOU OK?’), which dovetailed into the cryptic yet enchanting musing about attractors (‘ENTROPY’) followed by the more upbeat ‘FRONTAL LOBE MUZIK’.
As we left the venue, a few thoughts sprung to mind. Daniel’s humility and earnest nature won hearts on the night, but there was more to it than that. The setlist, succinct yet so effective was carefully considered by an emotive soul. From ‘LOVE AGAIN’, ‘RESTORE THE FEELING’ and ‘Who Hurt You?’ all the way to ‘OPEN UP’ and ‘Hold Me Down’. The night was truly a reflection of love and as I sat up from my hypothetical beach floor with the crowd, it felt as though he held a mirror up to the soul of every attendant on the night.