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Live Review of Daniel Caesar at the Fillmore

At the Fillmore, located in the energetic Fishtown district on the edge of North Philly, Daniel Caesar performed to a sold-out crowd this past Saturday. Caesar showcased his newest album for his headlining tour: Case Study 01. Released in June, the tracks off this album became powerful anthems for the summer months. The line of ten people that I arrived to at 4 in the afternoon had grown to a line of 2,500 before doors opened at 7 PM, and I began to realize the  sheer amount of individuals who are moved by Caesar’s music. My 3 hours of waiting in line on an unusually humid September day was less than ideal, but the payout was incredible.

After everyone had shuffled into the venue, we waited for the opening act. Soon enough the audience was greeted by 19-year-old Jamaican Mikayla Simpson, better known as Koffee. Dressed head to toe in a Bape set with colorful visuals projected behind her, Koffee shows off her colorful style which is apparent in her lively Reggae music, stylized with modern and pop attributes. 

My favorite song of her set had to be “Rapture,” which features a catchy chorus and demonstrates Simpson’s vocal range; which goes from her lower rap tone to her mezzo-soprano tone that really shines during the chorus. The last song she played, “Toast,” got the most attention from the crowd, with many singing along to the lyrics. My only complaint about her set was that it was cut way too short; she only played 3-4 songs, which is different from the typical 6 song set.

Soon after, the crowd was asking for water cups from security guards and shuffling around, much to the dismay of myself and the rest of the audience. Tension about everyone’s spot in audience continued to rise until Caesar’s set finally began. 

The stage lights darkened and the audience was whistling and hollering. Caesar’s background singers, dressed head to toe in black, came out and gravitated to their respective sides of the stage and Oppenheimer’s monologue began playing, with red text transcribing his words onto the screens on-stage. The audio finished with “I am become death, destroyer of worlds,” and the intro to Case Study 01’s opening song, “Cyanide” started. Soon enough, Caesar ran between the screens onto the stage and began singing, to which the crowd justifiably went wild.

The energy and aura of the crowd was set for the night, as Caesar continued belting “Cyanide”, an ode to his Jamaican roots. Every single person was swaying to his tune, and I’m sure most were falling in love with his voice all over again. A seamless transition, evident in the album, made its way to the stage when “Love Again” started immediately. The ballad gives off a more subtle and romantic vibe compared to the previous song, with its minor and flat chords–perfect for a love song–as well as the lyrical chemistry between Daniel Caesar and Brandy, who is featured.

Caesar continued with a distinct mix of older tracks and tracks off Case Study 01, with my favorite being “Too Deep to Turn Back.” Caesar’s background vocalists surrounded him as he sat on a stool in the middle of the stage with a guitar in hand, belting the lyrics. Next are three tracks from his 2017 album, Freudian: “Get You” featuring Kali Uchis, “Best Part,” featuring H.E.R., and “Blessed.” Myself and others started listening to Caesar when this album was released, at which point he had officially entered the mainstream contemporary R&B genre, which made this point of the concert a special occasion.

The lights went dark and Caesar exited the stage after “Superposition”, and the audience begged for an encore. After much chanting and anticipation, Caesar ran back on stage and began my favorite song of his, “Japanese Denim.” The 2017 single about Caesar’s comparison of love to a pair of good jeans, resonates with the crowd, and everyone is singing along to the D’Angelo-inspired song.

Caesar finishes with “Are You OK?”, but doesn’t go off stage just yet. He says, “I’m catching a vibe,” and the crowd shouts song suggestions to him. He goes on to chuckle and say, “I haven’t played any of these in forever!” But with the spotlight on him and his acoustic guitar on his lap, he started singing “Death and Taxes,” a track off his 2015 album, “Pilgrim’s Paradise.” This song was a surprise to everyone, especially since it wasn’t on the setlist for his previous shows on the tour. Fans of this older song sang along to the tune with Caesar, and at the end he said his goodbyes and the lights went dark again.

Overall, Caesar gave an amazing, dynamic show. This was my first concert for an artist with a slower, more romantic sound, and I was not disappointed. Despite the pace of his music, Caesar’s lyrically-charged songs and instrumentals provide all the energy needed for a great concert.

Review By: Sarah Dowdy

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