Culture & Conversation

Such a dream

Radio play without radio play sounds like an impossible contradiction, but it may be Terius Youngdell Nash’s dilemma. Working under the moniker The-Dream, Nash has both produced and co-written a number of your favourite billboard hits, including Britney’s now relevant “Me Against the Music,” Bieber’s “Baby,” Rihanna’s “Eh Eh Eh” (I do mean, “Umbrella”), and the always relevant, Ms. Carter’s “Single Ladies.”

His work is paradoxically contained in a space where it’s both well known, and overlooked all the same. In 2007, Nash released his first solo record Love Hate which went unnoticed. In 2009, Nash released his second solo record Love vs. Money, which basically went unnoticed too, save for the Michael Jackson-inspired and Kanye West-produced track, “Walkin’ on the Moon.”

So why don’t you know about The-Dream, seeing as how you’re such a big fan? The reason is that the Nash singles that do get saved to your iPod are delivered to you by beautiful pop stars, whose outfits and choreography choices matter to you. Nash is not a memorable face, but rather an overlooked producer. In the past, Nash’s negligence under the limelight has been noted as a result of a history of lacklustre stage presence. As far as 2013 is going however, I can assure you, dear reader: the man is trying, and the man can sing.

Nash has since delivered IV Play – a truly triumphant record (feat. Jay-Z, Beyonce, Big Sean, Pusha-T, Fabolous and Gary Clark Jr, to name a few). A record which in fact stands as one of the best R’n’B records released this past year. In light of this and in collaboration with Pop Montreal, Nash took to the stage at Olympia this past Friday night, accompanied by a live band. Given the size of the venue, and the hype surrounding the events, the crowd was sparse at best. White millennial kids made up the majority of the crowd (and yes, that matters) but barely filled the floor. One girl, situated front and centre, periodically held up a poster labelled with the words “Marry Me.”

And then there is the rare occasion in which a great show stands as a great show irrespective of audience population, for the fans who were present and screaming were those who knew the name The-Dream. I believe that it was in seeing this that Nash felt the impulse to bring the proverbial “it” regardless.

He was accompanied by a live band – a keyboardist, drummer and guitarist – who were perched above him in holy trinity with himself positioned front and centre. He rocked a black ensemble, including a leather overcoat, black snapback, and black shades which when removed, revealed (to my companions immense delight) a sweet, sweet, baby face, on a man crooning about making love to you.

Nash’s impressive vocals accompanied by the accoutrements of his backing band brought passion, definitely passion. Nash insisted “she loves me back” on the track “Nikki,” and in braggadacio tradition confidently cried “you know what it means, so let’s get it straight” on “IV Play.” Vocals like these have been lacking in our contemporary R’n’B manifestations, and thoroughly missed.

Top tracks included “Rockin that thing”  – in which I kind of really believed he was in love with me – and a rendition of blues single “Too Early.” Here Nash took it upon himself to cover Gary Clarks Jr.’s vocals, which as a producer, one sees as uniquely integral. Yet, as a performer, Nash substitutes the goods all the same. The lights dim, and the backing band lowers to a murmur, as Nash pulls up front and centre and loops a cry for a deliciously desperate “grindin,” offering an expression of raw sexuality that is romantic at its best. I mean, it’s really R’n’B, people.

Ever so gracious and present, Nash earlier instagrammed a Canadian flag upon entrance at the airport, and now thanks the crowd for being such a joy for his first time here. Nash leaves the stage, only to return again for some screams. He takes the mic again, and I hear a crowd member say “Oh my God, he’s doing Dirty Diana” – which was, to be completely honest with you, absolutely a dream.

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