On his first headlining tour Jean Dawson proves himself to be one of the most exciting new live acts
It was 8:45 p.m on Nov. 1. when Jean Dawson took the stage at Le Belmont, dressed in a massive black denim jacket atop an Aphex Twin hoodie, paired with leopard print pants. A black ski mask with a Homer chain hanging from his neck shone bright against his otherwise dark silhouette. The outfit showed a diverse array of interests that Dawson displays quite literally on his sleeve — even in his music. His sound melds hip-hop, R&B, pop-punk and electronic music into something that sounds both familiar and distinctly unique at the same time.
Dawson was accompanied by a four-piece backing band cramped onto Le Belmont’s tiny stage. The Montreal show was his first in Canada. Despite being on his first headlining tour, Dawson performed as if he had been at it for years.
The show began with the wailing guitars backing “Dummy” off Dawson’s sophomore album Pixel Bath. What I expected to be a roaring start for Dawson was actually a little bit sleepy. The band was clearly giving their all, but the lead singer had yet to truly warm up. Dawson followed “Dummy” with “PORN ACTING*” . The crowd was getting excited but it wasn’t the high-octane, over-the-top energy I expected. Dawson said later in the show that he was sick, which was also his reasoning for the ski mask.
Once Dawson performed “Devilish,” the show began to live up to the tour name, named after the artist’s most recent album CHAOS NOW*. The mosh pit opened up and it was pretty tough to avoid for the rest of the show. Fans jumped up and down and shouted lyrics into the microphone Dawson would wave over the crowd.
The rest of the performance easily surpassed my earlier expectations of a high-energy show. As Dawson’s energy built, so did the crowd’s. Fans shouted out song requests; one fan requested “Policia,” which shocked Dawson. Considering the song is mostly sung in Spanish, he was taken aback that it would get requested in Canada. While the song didn’t make it into the main set, Dawson and the band appeased the fan’s request by playing “Policia” in their encore.
Other highlights of the show included “PIRATE RADIO*,” which had the crowd slow down the moshing a bit as everyone sang along to one of Dawson’s slower tracks. The interaction between the crowd and Dawson culminated as he walked into the crowd during “0-HEROES*” leading up to the song’s massive chorus and another extended period of moshing.The backing band also held their own intense guitar and drum solos throughout the show.
The show concluded with “Power Freaks,” with Dawson finally taking off his ski mask to reveal a head of wild blonde dreads, in an electric final number (before returning for the fan favourite “Policia” in his encore.) Despite a bit of a slow start, Dawson tore up Le Belmont with an electric performance — one that will hopefully be the first of many to come in his career as well as in Canada.
Photo by Evan Lindsey