Toward the end of K’Naan’s show at Toronto’s Massey Hall on Saturday, October 1, the crowd—knowing time was running out—started yelling out names of their favourite tracks. Cries for “Strugglin’,” “Soobax” and “Take a Minute” echoed. “This is a very diverse audience,” the Somali-Canadian hip-hop artist said, chuckling at the wide-ranging requests.
In the end the 33-year-old covered most of the audience’s tastes. Dressed in a black leather jacket and his signature fedora, K’Naan delivered songs from both of his studio albums, plus a few melodious tracks from an upcoming disc (release date TBA).
Varied as it was, the reserved theatre audience couldn’t rise to bass-heavy songs such as “I Come Prepared”—K’Naan’s anthem recorded with reggae artist Damian Marley. But now a seasoned touring pro, having played in 86 countries after a “Wavin’ Flag” remix became Coca-Cola’s anthem for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, K’Naan knew how to engage the crowd.
On his feet for the duration of the set, bouncing from one side of the stage to the other for energetic performances of tracks such as “Fatima” and “In The Beginning,” K’Naan finally took a seat for hit single “Take a Minute.” Turning the mic toward the audience he traded lines and “yeah, yeah yeahs” with the arm-waving crowd.
Here was a moment when the artist truly connected with his fans, even though few in the Massey Hall crowd could possibly relate to K’Naan’s life story: He left the horrors of war-torn Somalia at 13 for a troubled youth in Toronto’s Rexdale neighbourhood. “Take a Minute” is a song about overcoming extreme adversity, and using strength from that struggle to achieve success. It’s about choosing positivity regardless of one’s difficulties and making the most of each day. And that’s something that any crowd—rowdy or relaxed—can relate to.