Daniel Caesar – Enmore Theatre
Daniel Caesar – Enmore Theatre
Written by Aaron Vargas
Photos by Mikki Gomez
The average teenager usually deals with heartbreak by chain-smoking memes and blasting through Netflix’s ‘Recently Added’, learning the post-grad art of feeling sorry for themselves well before responsibilities like student loans, 40 hour work weeks and underfinanced mortgages say their unwelcome hellos. Who can blame them? Wrapped in Hollywood and hormones, these newly-minted adults are the perfect candidates for road trips and sheet-side getaways; taking the blind-love rollercoaster right to the top, stomachs lurching, hearts pounding. In the words of daytime TV psychotherapists – It’s all part of growing up.
But some of them are different. Every once in a while a fearless youngster keeps their eyes open during the ride, sketching the silver-lining for future hopefuls and turning those memories into books, movies and music. Daniel Caesar’s first EP ‘Praise Break’ managed exactly that as a collection of lost love letters, with the lead single “Violet” charting on Spotify. Caesar then went on to fill the gap left by D’Angelo’s maturing tastes and aging influence, finishing his notebook in the follow up EP ‘Pilgrim’s Paradise’ before carving his name into the sub-pop stratosphere with ‘Freudian’. Honest, sensual, bare and intimate, Caesar’s debut album doesn’t hide behind trap-rap machismo or indie-pop asexuality; lusting as much as it loves, giving back whatever it takes.
The 22 year old Canadian is now plucking the flowers growing from his candid three minute poems. Travelling down south for his first Australian tour, Daniel Caesar has found himself in heavy demand. His original billing at the George Street Metro was upgraded to Newtown’s own Enmore Theatre, which still sold out well before the RnB upstart set foot in Sydney. The ticket sales were reflected in the swell of fans milling about the auditorium an hour before he was due, spilling over to the merch desk and bar lines, spending anxiously as hip-hop whispered from underused speakers. Without alerting the recently ATARed crowd, Enmore’s house lights dimmed.
A huge roar went up from the spectators, rumbling out for the shadowy figure moving in from stage right. Tall, dressed in black and scarfed by a tattered cowl; Do Not Push introduced himself. Caesar’s resident DJ grinned the same grin he would be wearing for the next half hour, jockeying from Destiny’s Child to Migos, Kendrick to Khalid, TLC to N.E.R.D. The mob had the lyrics burned into the back of their eyelids, auditioning for chorus with each new song, hyped by tour documenter and entourage mainstay Spencer Stewart as he scanned the expectant faces for footage. Coming to the end of his set Do Not Push spun Gambino and then Drake, priming the audience for the next big thing.
Soon Caesar’s band sidled into their positions. Matthew Burnett sat down behind his Korg keyboard as Adrian Bent rapped out a rimshot to test his double snares, tucked behind bassist Saya Gray. A weather-worn guitarist strapped up his Tele, stooped and focused on a quick-fire tuning before Daniel sauntered out from behind him, marking centre stage. The hall rang with screams that can only come from One Direction graduates, now turning their attention hip-hop’s latest wonderboy. Lanky, relaxed, Caesar gripped the mic and led his quintet to “Japanese Denim”.
From the very beginning Daniel Caesar drew the theatre in. He held himself reservedly, respectful of the audience but also expectant; waiting for them to come to him, letting his singles do the legwork when rounding up the stragglers. It wasn’t hard. They wanted to be caught. If you were to dial down the high pitched screams, twisting feet and off-key sing alongs, the only sound would be from breathless exhales and dreamy sighs. And as the band took a break for “Best Part”, these imaginations laid down lazily with well-loved neighbours, couples completely swept up in making memories with one another, dates cuddling, strangers teasing as Caesar conducted their future stories.
After a brief pit stop to realign errant chakras with a sprig of burning sage, Dan pulled his band back together for “Hold Me Down”. A sombre mission statement to his crowded fan-girls and string of exes, Caesar admitted to the bilingual life that comes with fame. But the lonely 2020 pop star accepts the changes gracefully. In “We Find Love” the gathering heard Dan’s opinion on modern relationships, swimming against the public’s philosophy that nothing can be repaired; only replaced. The message made its way to one couple who while blinking away tears locked in tight, caught in each other’s arms. As if response, Caesar and his band stepped up a key, the lead’s hovering falsetto sharing the affection.
Simmering in the afterglow, the Enmore’s captives waited for Caesar’s final song. Thankful for their support, attention and love, the Golden Child talent began “Blessed”; a stripped down ballad of recognition and apology. It rose slowly as the band merged with him, first keys, then flickering bass and finally drums. House lights popped and swung alongside the jazz breakdown and, repeating the last refrain, I’m coming back home, I’m coming back home to you, Daniel vacated the stage.
Luckily for his fans, he couldn’t leave to visit his inspiration just yet. There was one more song left for them. Returning to the dais under crystal-shattering applause, Caesar swayed into “Get You”. The sunshine single that broke him internationally, Daniel owes more to this song than any of his muses. Dripping from the speakers, sparking out of gyrating frets, “Get You” covered the crowd in love-taps and Stanktonia-era bass lines. One overzealous cutie tossed a bouquet at Caesar’s feet during Kali Uchis’ verse, hooking a cheeky smile from her celebrity crush as he ended the night.
Mark your calendars and start taking bets – if the Bieber-level reaction from the Sydneysiders is anything to go by, Daniel Caesar has a bright career ahead of him.