#LLTCTour | #Philadelphia | #SOLDOUT | 📷@yoleszlei for @fearandfancy

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Jidenna, one of the most dynamic artists out right now, occupies an interesting space in modern music: a pop/R&B/hip-hop hybrid that somehow manages to remain underrated (and even unknown despite his multiple hits) by many, yet still sells out multiple venues on his first ever headlining tour. One of these venues was the 450 capacity Foundry, located on the top floor of the Fillmore Philadelphia. Despite the sold out status of the show, I was able to squeeze myself in (thanks Live Nation) and catch my first live glimpse of one of my personal favorites doing it; spoiler alert: I was not disappointed.

There were no openers advertised on the show, so I arrived shortly before Jidenna was scheduled to hit the stage. Unfortunately, it turned out there was an unbilled opener that I did not get to see, Queens-bred Benghali emcee Anik Khan. My guy Chill Moody (the only person I knew from the Philly scene that was in attendance…do better, Philadelphia) told me he was dope, and I trust his judgment.

After wading through the heavily crowded venue, walking past Jidenna’s impressively ornate merch table, I grabbed an overpriced rum and coke ($8?!? Relax, Fillmore) and awaited Jidenna with the rest of the audience. It wasn’t long before the illuminated stage became pitch black and a full band (guitar, bass, drums and DJ/keyboards) took the stage and began feverishly jamming to warm the crowd up. After a couple minutes, the always sharply-dressed headliner ran on stage as the triumphant, powerful chords of “Chief Don’t Run” blasted through the Foundry’s first-rate sound system.

The crowd was incredibly receptive from the rip, a sometimes-rarity in Philly, throwing their hands up and screaming before Jidenna even broke out into the first verse. His vocals came through crisp and clear, a combination of the excellent sound and the 32-year old’s performance experience. His comfortability on stage became even more evident when he casually engaged with the crowd after the intense opener came to an end. With a genuinely funny story about his native Nigerian father claiming there was no way Rocky took place in South Philly since the L train doesn’t run through there (you’d have to hear his imitation of his pop’s accent to fully appreciate it), Jidenna had the audience in his hand already.

He continued running through tracks from his debut album The Chief, from the bouncy “Trampoline” to the highly quotable “Long Live the Chief” to the intense “Helicopters”. The first half of the set’s highlight, though, was an epic performance of his newest hit “Bambi”, which is one of the best pop songs of the past five years in my humble opinion. The lighting especially shined (no pun intended) during the catchy yet dramatic ballad, which ended with Jidenna’s entire band assembling around a mic for a barbershop quartet style rendition of the refrain. I was very impressed with the teamwork of the band, from their playing to their dancing and sense of humor aligning with their frontman, never missing a beat.

After running through the subtly pretty “Safari” while sipping out of a neon light-up goblet, as well as the banging “2 Points”, Jidenna briefly left the stage while the band continued jamming. I knew he had to be sweltering in the full suit he had on, so it was no surprise when he returned in an African-styled short sleeve shirt to rock his breakout hit “Classic Man” to roaring applause. I love that he inserted this in the middle of his set as a transitional song rather than predictably waiting until the end to play it, because there was still more in store for the captivated crowd.

Jidenna ran through another huge hit, “A Little Bit More”, which got the women in the building (whom I’d estimate made up well over half the audience) dancing happily. To be frank, it’s stunning to me that this man wasn’t playing the main stage downstairs at the Fillmore because of the pure magnitude of these hits, but I must admit I appreciated the more intimate setting of the Foundry overall. It made his short speech where he thanked everyone in attendance, saying that this show felt like a “home game” despite not being from Philly, all the more impactful. He then brought his two adorable nieces on stage from the front row to say hi to the crowd before going into club banger “Some Kind of Way” and quickly making an obviously fake exit from the stage along with the band.

Within two minutes, everyone was back on stage and ready for their encore, which most the crowd saw coming; saw what you will about Philly, but we ain’t dumb. He began with The Chief’s politically charged closer “Bully of the Earth”, which was an interesting choice to begin his encore with. I appreciate that record for its lyrical content but the reaction to it was a bit lukewarm compared to the ecstatic energy throughout the rest of the show. However, he picked it right back up with yet another hit “The Let Out”, half of which he performed while walking through the crowd, much to his fans’ delight.

The now sweat-drenched Jidenna then said his real goodbyes, seeming genuinely appreciative of the sold-out crowd’s love of his work. I walked into this show expecting an excellent performance, just based on how much I enjoy his material and the reviews I’ve gotten from friends and peers who have seen him. I walked out even more impressed than I expected to be. I’m a reasonably tough critic, mainly because I’m an artist who takes immense pride in my own live show so I hold most acts I see to that standard I’ve set for myself. But I can’t lie: Jidenna has one of the best live shows on the circuit right now. This shit was beautiful; nearly flawless. From the visual aspects to the sound to, most importantly, the crowd control and stage presence of the Chief and his band, it was possibly the best show I’ve seen this year thus far. If you’re reading this and haven’t seen Jidenna live yet, fix that ASAP.