NF’s Therapy Session Tour featuring Fleurie rolled into the Cleveland House of Blues on October 19th. In similar fashion I rolled into the House of Blues with high expectations for the tour.
The run has sold out numerous venues before the Cleveland stop, and has several more sold out shows before it will end in late fall. Even though Cleveland was not one of the capacity crowds, it was still very full. As usual the doors opened more or less on time and eager teenagers and young adults alike crammed into every available space that was close to the stage.
I have seen NF before, but his opener on this tour, Fleurie, was going to be new to me. My only prior knowledge of her was that she was featured on one of NF’s tracks, but past that I had no expectations.
Generally when I review any type of performance I always take into account that not all music is my cup of tea. If that happens I take into account the reception of the audience rather than my opinion. As open as I’d like to think that I am, I have to admit that not all music is my taste and I try to be fair in my judgment of that. This though was the first night that my distaste for the music was shared by most if not the rest of the audience.
Fleurie was, shall we put it, strange to say the least. Her appearance was not anything that would have been out of the ordinary at a emo convention, which matched the scene she was in. Her voice followed suit. It was a mix that was between pitchy and breathy. Because of that she lost me within the first few bars. As the second song came around it was apparent I was not the only one that shared that sentiment. Just reading the audience’s body language told me that things began to slide down hill. First was the uncomfortable shifting, then the muffled chatter, and then the flat out mass exodus for the bathroom and merch table. To cap it all off there was the audible distaste that came in the form of vocalized insults. Despite the fact that her performance improved as her show went on, she had already lost that connection with the audience that an opener needs to thrive. Because I have no experience with her beyond this performance, I will put it down to nerves tonight. For me, I just wanted her to take control of the voice she obviously has, and take time to work on her crowd interaction. This tour may very well be the experience that she needs to develop that and I look forward to seeing where she is in a year. It is definitely something to take into account that I did see a few people in the crowd connect with her. That those same people had on her shirts that were not sold at the table that night meaning she does have a fan base, and that whatever these fans see in her is there. It just may not have been evident tonight.
NF is a different story. NF’s music has been called “real” and “honest” by many. In fact the phrase “Real Music” is his mantra and catchphrase. From the first drop, all I could see was a hurt kid’s rage put to a beat performing in front of other hurting people. He has a very fine tuned flow style, and the amount of talent within just this one person is incredible. However I have to wonder if this whole room of kids feels this way. Maybe a review of his music might not be the only thing we have to consider. He had everyone in the room’s attention from the second that he stepped onto the stage. Fleurie left a somber, all be it mildly awkward, air to the room. NF brought a certain rage, anger, and raw honesty to the stage that had not been there earlier. During the entire hour and a half set he did not miss a single beat, that was until he stopped the entire show. I’m not entirely sure how he caught it considering the amount of flashing lights but NF called out a fan from the stage who was smoking. He asked him not to “ruin the show for everybody” and then ordered security to kick him out immediately. That spectacle was greeted by cheers from the already amped crowd.
Another thing to note about the performance is that it should be one big trigger warning. The music deals with a range of emotions from rage to depression and every dark corner in-between. It was not a happy, joyful, pleasant feeling hour. Here is where I draw the difference between good music and a good experience. Good music has good lyrics and writing regardless of content. A good experience leaves the listener ready to leave the vacation of a concert and head back into the world renewed. All I felt was angry over things and lyrics that I had nothing to do with once I did leave. I also watched hundreds of people rage to the same music and scream the lyrics as though it was personal. The most painful thing was I knew that it was for some.
NF is real. He is honest. He’s not faking it in any meaning of the word. However if we are being honest, we have to ask ourselves if that is a good thing.