Stanley Park Malkin Bowl
September 25, 2010
By Chris Ryan
Photos by Andrew Chin
At some concerts, your goal is to see a genius work an instrument, other times you look to get lost in the music, but some shows, you reach a heightened awareness of exactly where you are in the world, and at what specific time in your life. K’Naan’s performance at the Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park was one of those rare moments.
Even for Vancouver standards, the rain was pouring down, ranging from intense to less intense. Opening act Shad, incorporated a rain-fueled, slick stage wipe out seamlessly into his performance, while riling the crowd with positive lyrics and head-bopping melodies. However, even with an incredibly simple stage set-up, K’Naan came across a little distant at first. Definitely reserved and held behind the water line as his small, tight group warmed up the crowd with some upbeat numbers, like ABCs, and engaged in only a little crowd banter. Considering the recent controversy of K’Naan pulling out of a charity event due to failed contractual obligations on the part of the organizers, there was an air of, “Is he too big for this?” whispering through the crowd.
The answer came during the uplifting single Take a Minute when he walked out to the edge of the stage into the pouring rain and essentially invited every single person there, into his home. As quick as a light switch, everyone went from braving the rain to relishing each drop that fell and soaked into the skin.
During one of many sing-a-longs, K’Naan asked the crowd for more volume so he could reach the sun through the clouds, and it’s arguable if that wasn’t exactly what happened. Extended crowd participation, fed by the band’s bright smiles, turned heart-rending songs like Fatima into a celebration, rather than a song of mourning.
Simple, honest statements like, “Come on, let’s just sing like we’re in the shower,” or, “You’re not going to be afraid of the person standing next to you, are you?” elevated a feeling, vibe, or whatever you want to call it, to a level of openness and understanding that only a performer with incredible talent and road-tested skills, could even dream of conjuring.
By the end of the show there were direct verbal exchanges between the crowd and the enigmatic Somali-born singer that felt like those times in a classroom when a teacher spoke frankly with students at the level of equals.
In the end, how an artist handles their big, radio hit is a tell-tale sign of their connection to their fans. K’Naan not only delivered but you would have been hard pressed to find a single soul leaving the show who wouldn’t have said they could never have imagined that song ever played so well. It was like the band snuck a giant Laser Gun of Niceness onto the stage and blasted any within earshot.
As the crowd slipped and slid its way out of the mucky mess heading home, the most common expression on drenched faces was the same one you see on a child’s on Christmas morn. It was that good.