Dancing in the rain with K'naan, Shad and CHIN
"I never promised you a rose garden/ Along with the sunshine there's gotta be some rain," rapper Shad sang to the crowd at last night's K'naan concert in Stanley Park's Malkin Bowl.
And rain it did.
Before the show began, swollen grey clouds touched the tips of the great Douglas Firs that form a ring around the open air stage. They skitted along like waves in a restless sea.
Everyone who had turned up to see the Somali-Canadian musician - teenagers, mothers and fathers, kids, and grandparents - looked expectantly at one another. Waiting. Watching. Wondering when the skies would break.
It happened before the show had even started.
Thousands of cool droplets spilled down on the grassy field. People raced towards the perimeter, seeking shelter under the trees surrounding the field. Others huddled under striped blankets, plastic ponchos, and MEC rain gear. This VO reporter and her friend ran for the cover of the production tent where we were graciously allowed to stay. A few rogue umbrellas - which were not allowed in for security reasons - opened defiantly. Pink and purple acts of rebellion.
But the show, as they say, must go on.
Remember how lucky you are, opening act Chin Injeti told the drenched audience.
The audience murmured in agreement.
As the skies darkened, the rain slowed to a trickle. Silhouetted against the night, the trees leaned in to listen to the grooves of Injeti's band. A mix of hip-hop and alt-rock at times reminiscent of Bedouin Soundclash.
Next up, Shad, another Canadian artist, got in on the action. You know you've got a true Canadian rap star on your hands when he freestyles about Wayne Gretzky, K'naan, and Malkin Bowl.
The bilingual rapper and SFU student performed hits from his latest albums, TSOL and The Old Prince, including "Quest for Glory", "The Old Prince Still Lives at Home," and "Compromise."
At one point, after falling on stage mid-song, he laughed it off and told us, "It must be the adrenaline. But it's ok, I feed off you guys."
As Shad finished his set, the rain picked up again. Dirt turned to mud beneath our feet. The water fell faster and faster. Sopping blankets were left in piles on the field. There was nothing left to do but embrace it.
"K'naan! K'naan! K'naan!" we chanted.
He appeared behind a curtain of water. Yellow spotlights glinted off the tumbling droplets, casting a warm glow over the stage.
"They've told me to keep away from the rain, coz I might get electrocuted," he said. "But I might come join you if the show takes me there."
Although earlier this year the artist confessed via twitter to feeling disillusioned with performing, he didn't let it show last night. If he was slightly less high-energy than usual, chalk it up to the fact that he was feeling under the weather.
"We're dancing in the rain!" he said while bounding across the stage singing T.I.A (This is Africa), his mocking comparison of Western vs. African street cred.
But the rapper's brightest moment came while performing the reflective Take a Minute from his sophomore album Troubadour. He paused mid-song to tell the audience a story. A moment of intimacy with the hundreds listening in the dark.
"We had the distinct honour of recording this album at Bob Marley's house in Jamaica," he said, "We were sitting in his living room - me and Rayzak - and that melody was the first thing to come."
K'naan described the experience like some beautiful dream. "I don't fucking work for my mind. I work for my heart. It was the first thing to come to mind."
He then sang the never-recorded four lines that would become Take a Minute. "It ain't everyday that you get to give/It ain't everyone who gets to live/It gets me here/That's how I got here."
Soon he had the entire audience singing these words. It was a moment that exemplified why K'naan has risen to popularity. His music is soulful, melodic, and reminds us what we have to be greatful for while acknowledging those who are struggling.
Of course, no one was going to leave happy if he didn't perform Wavin' Flag. He took his time leading up to the song. Taunting us, teasing us, before breaking out into his most well-known hit. Several Canadian flags appeared in the audience to animate this new Canadian anthem.
Rain? What rain?