March 3rd @ Middle East Downstairs
By: Kyle Rossini and Jacob Dennis
Chicago artist Noname performed at the Middle East Downstairs on March 3rd for a sold-out crowd. To sum the show up in one word, it was spiritual. Every song from Noname, and her opener, Ravyn Lenae, touched the crowd in a way that was truly special.
The show got off to a rocky start. Due to unforeseen medical issues, the first opener, Akenya, was unable to perform in Boston and would not be performing for the duration of the tour. Nevertheless, Ravyn more than made up for her absence. Given that Noname is a hip-hop artist, her fans were probably expecting another talented Chicago rapper to prepare the stage for her, but what they got instead was one of the most talented vocalists I’ve encountered recently. Ravyn displayed superior breath and pitch control, fitting that of a seasoned veteran–and at only 17 years old, one can already see her limitless potential. She entered the stage with a smattering of fans among the crowd, and left the entire room converted. Her latest EP, entitled Midnight Moonlight, dropped the day before the concert and it is highly recommended.
After Ravyn, DJ Finesser kept the crowd going while awaiting Noname, as the stage crew set up for an entire band, complete with 3 backup singers. This is a rare treat at a hip-hop concert and added to Noname’s genuine and personal style. Unfortunately, for the first half of her set, Noname’s mic was not properly balanced with the other instruments on stage and it was a struggle to hear her well. This did take away from the experience, but Noname made up for this by involving the crowd in some impromptu call-and-response, having her fans sing along. Most people in the crowd seemed to know the words to her songs, so she had no trouble moving her mouth from the mic and singing with the crowd. This group singing made for an effect similar to that of a church, in which the entire congregation knows the songs and wants them to be heard. Noname acted as the benevolent priestess, leading the praise and joining them in their sense of euphoria.
When Noname and company left the stage, the call for encore was ongoing and cacophonous. After some time, she reappeared alone on stage with an obvious sense of bewilderment at the love shown by her fans. She humbly admitted that she did not expect the encore and, thus, had nothing prepared. One man in the crowd shouted that she freestyle, but Noname shot him down, asserting that she only does what she wants. This had the crowd gushing over her air of confidence and crying for her to begin. As she started performing one of the songs she skipped in the set, her band came back out and joined her. At the end of the song, she had them continue playing while she gave thanks to each of them by name, then said goodnight to the crowd.
Upon exiting the venue, there was not a single person without a smile from ear-to-ear. The feeling of the patrons was one of rejuvenation and child-like joy that lasted for the next few days. Noname undoubtedly provides the most exuberant performance of any upcoming Emcee, and her show is highly recommended.