Daniel Caesar Takes New York To Church At Highline Ballroom Show [Recap]
The Freudian singer-songwriter, Daniel Caesar, had everyone rocking and swaying to his soulful sermon.
I tried to tell people that Daniel Caesar was a star. I was outside of music at this time in 2014 when he dropped his Praise Break project, but I kept my ear to all the new heat that was coming out at that time. Despite not having a home to share my thoughts and feelings about music, I still would share links and give props via my Twitter page. Fast forward three years later, and here the Toronto singer-songwriter was @Okayplayer HQ, playing choice songs from his latest and greatest project, Freudian.
Upon meeting him, you could tell that Daniel was special. Shy, but open to conversation, and not yet trapped by celebrity and fame. He was cool, a bit self-assured and fully in command of his skills and capabilities. Yet, I hadn’t seen him live to see how all that flair and panache came together. Thankfully, the plug (shoutout to Kim!) came through on my birthday week and blessed the kid with tickets to Daniel Caesar’s show at New York City’s Highline Ballroom. With a line down and around the block, the sold out show followed his previous (sold out) show at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg.
I was intent on seeing just how my favorite songs from Freudian sounded live, how Daniel interacted with his legion of parishioners and if he would go for the big hit early or put on a stellar show. As Daniel came out to welcome the people and get them ready for a good time, his band was on point, playing crispy and clean notes which satisfied the ears easily. He quickly transitioned into the cut, “Japanese Denim,” a personal fave, and the crowd was already engaged, singing word for word as loud as possible. Sitting in the upper deck, watching everyone below was a treat, as some were captivated by Daniel’s energy and others were not wanting to let the moment go and were recording each moment with fervent intensity. Sounding like a pro, it didn’t feel like it was Daniel’s first headlining tour. He played the stage with casual ease, walking from side-to-side, singing directly to his fans and giving off positive and cool vibes.
He would then take it back for his Day Ones by performing, “Violet,” off of Praise Break. As the crowd swayed back-and-forth like the Atlantic Ocean on a warm, summer Sunday afternoon, Daniel’s vocals were primo and electrifying at the same damn time. With his guitar in tow, Daniel captured the ears and hearts of a few new listeners who were sitting next to me and were only familiar with “Get You”. Daniel and his flyer-than-thou band transitioned into “Death & Taxes” from 2015’s Pilgrim’s Paradise, which even caught a few hardcore fans off guard.
It was at this moment when the camera phones went down and the congregation enjoyed all the vibes that were flowing throughout Highline Ballroom.
Listen, when Daniel followed his medley with “Neu Roses” (Transgressor’s Song) — a woman jumped up on the couch next to me and shouted, “Yes!” Now, I’m not sure if he caught it, because we were in the upper deck, but it felt like the Holy Spirit swept through her and began hitting other people. It became contagious. Folks were peering their heads through the guard rails to take angled pictures and video or just to lift their voices closer to Daniel and the band. Quite the sight to see. As everyone joined in for a collective diddy bop, Daniel’s connection to the crowd was really real, as droves of Daniel-ites in the front row huddled around the stage just itching to get a touch of the hem of his garb or his hands. “Transform” was next, and the crowd was ready to sing alongside him in joyous celebration. Camera phones were down, hands were raised to the ceiling, and the soulful spirit of real music flowed throughout Highline Ballroom.
The pace was picking up, as Daniel and the band moved right into “We Find Love / Blessed,” and Daniel’s vocals championed the power of love to the masses. Just a touch from his hand incited throngs of audiophiles to reach out and scream in delight as the concertgoers were eager to feel that energy up close and personal. For me, “We Find Love / Blessed” was a personally moving moment. As I have shared in other posts (and social media) before, I am a kidney dialysis patient and trust me, I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for love. That light, that beacon of hope where you have someone in this life to shine truth into the darkest recesses of one’s heart is a peaceful relief. “We Find Love / Blessed” personally helped me to fight against the evils that comes with waiting for salvation (in this case, a new kidney) and to hear that song live was a true blessing indeed.
The feeling was mutual, I believe, as the rest of the crowds sung “Blessed” to the top of their lungs. Daniel would go on to close out the show, seemingly forgetting to perform his biggest hit, “Get You”. Leaving the stage, the lights went black and people instantly clamored for more. Returning with a tapped bottle of Hennessy, the young lord came back and performed “Get You,” as the crowd served as his choir. Singing high praises to love, light and life, a rumble began to stir near the back of the venue. Camera phones were raised to the sky, flashing lights began to shine, gaining my attention. At first, I thought that some celebrity stepped in to catch Daniel’s final act, and the crowd’s were just bugging. But then I looked clearly, and noticed the young writing gawd, Jozen Cummings down on one knee, proposing to his longtime girlfriend of four years.
— Jozen (say Joe-Zen) (@jozenc) November 25, 2017
Anyone who follows the Howard University grad knows about his “Until I Get Married” blogsite. What may happen to his single man chronicles is still up in the air, but seeing that moment intertwined with the soulful serenading from Daniel Caesar made his show at Highline Ballroom an experience that I’ll never forget. If you are able to catch him before he goes abroad then this is a show you cannot afford to miss.