Live Review: SonReal brings his slow burning grooves to Cambridge!
The last two weeks have been wild for me. Catching everything from indie rock darlings New Politics to the smooth as heck singer songwriter Ziggy Alberts from Oz, but one artist who was a true stand out was Canada’s SonReal a.k.a Aaron Hoffman. Who brought his self-titled ‘The Aaron LP’ to the Middle East Club recently. An LP that Hoffman knows was risky but the crowd was fully there for it.
So there for it that I literally walked into a deafening roar from the crowd as he took the stage. So deafening that my immediate reaction was to pick up a pair of ear plugs. But one verse in, it was clear why Hoffman has achieved such a cult following success. This new LP is a whole different side of SonReal, one that is slow burning grooves and beautiful words, songs dedicated to his wife, something fully unexpected. But the old mixed with the new in the set had fans hooked on every word.
That opening track was“Problems” and quickly went into “Grammy Song”, with Hoffman stripping off his jacket to reveal a Cher final tour shirt and proclaimed, ‘I said Boston I want to know how you feel out there’ to which the crowd went off. And the energy didn’t slow down once in the set, besides the moments where he would slow it down himself. He’s a natural performer and I was there for it 100 percent throughout the whole set. His interactions with the crowd were on point and it was clearly a room of dedicated fans. A fan yelled out, ‘Where can I buy your shirt?’ with an immediate response of ‘At your local vintage shop’ to a full room of laughter. A slight at those Guns & Roses and Nirvana shirts you see at Forever 21? Maybe no, maybe yes, but fully there for it. Another great moment that really stuck out with this was when he introduced a song by saying, ‘This is for my old fans who know my shit’ and that was everyone in the room as they sung every word to “No Warm Up”.
SonReal wasn’t the only guy on stage with a full band backing him and their chemistry was a highlight of the set. One that you don’t get to see often as of course bands are going to put on smiles for the audience even if they aren’t fond of each other that day. The chemistry with these guys was clearly fully honest though. And SonReal screamed his appreciation when saying, ‘If you see anyone in my band walking around, buy them a drink they deserve four’. A chemistry too that may be because he’s openly so proud of this album, ‘I just did what I wanted to do on this album. I did what my heart wanted do to’. He fully acknowledges that it’s a big departure for him and he thanked the crowd many a time throughout his performance for their support. Their dedication went from bouncing to every word, clamoring over him when he would jump into the crowd yet went in to full on listener mode for songs like “1000 Highways” which is dedicated to his wife. Also, side note, the video for this track is gorgeous.
I could go on for pages and pages about SonReal’s show but I encourage all of you to see his performance for yourself. Aaron Hoffman is going to explode and if this show was just a smidgeon of an indication of what’s to come and why this man deserves to succeed, I can’t wait to see what’s to come. He was so grateful for his fanbase, the dedication, the turnout. Everything was on point be it the lyrical content, his dedication to his wife, writing a song as a tribute to his mother with “Voicemail” and the beautiful lyric ‘I’m not perfect, I’m not even close, raised by three women, kept me on my toes’ within it, SonReal has a song for everybody. And it’s going to bring him a very long way. The Middle East has been the place I’ve seen Khalid play, G Easy and Halsey both play, and SonReal is now someone I will be glad to add to that list.