Featured Photo: Darren Sparling
Over the past years I developed a strong relationship with Rich Terfry. Within the timeslots of R2 Drive the CBC personality had quelled my outbursts of road rage and entertained me for numerous hours driving along the Trans-Canada Highway, setting my adventure through music. Having never seen him perform as Buck 65, my friends told me “GO” and experience Rich as his alter ego. Seated up high in the NAC Theatre, I grew eager awaiting his arrival.
As the lights dimmed, a fly Buck 65 waltzed onto a pitch black stage in a slim black suit and tie. Accompanied by two microphones, a laptop, sampler and a turntable he promptly opened the show to the “Gates of Hell,” the opening track of his newly released Neverlove. Unleashing into the microphone, he brought energy into the theatre as red and blue lights danced all around him. The initial blast dissipated into “Zombie Delight” with Buck letting loose on stage, limbs flailing, parading as a mindless zombie, kept erect only by the mic stand. Several songs in he gave a brief formal introduction before continuing to unpack vacuum-sealed rhymes, “So Fresh.”
The evening’s presentation came on the heels of his new studio album Neverlove (released September 30, 2014). After 20 Odd Years, Buck’s musical experience is a vast blend of distinct audible elements with rich Canadian roots anchored by Halifax’s fabled hip hop scene. Neverlove, a departure from his early style, sees him using his lyrical abilities to express the deep emotions from his recent divorce — stepping through the “Gates of Hell” to learn how “Love Will Fuck You Up.” Infused with an electronic base, the composition of uptempo rhythms and a thumping club-style bass accompanies a melodic Buck who using his rhymes to elucidate his state of mind. In finding the key to his struggle, the album allowed Buck 65 to stretch his musical capacities and in turn developed an album that stands apart from his previous forays. Nevertheless, for those distressed to find a sombre Buck 65 can rejoice with Laundromat Boogie, an EP released a day before Neverlove in collaboration with one of Halifax’s legendary personalities Jorun Bombay. Laundromat Boogie is a comical allegory of Neverlove, explained through the art of laundering. Although the show was concentrated with songs from both albums, however he still found the opportunity to rip through his older catalogue.
The hour and a half long set saw Buck 65 in full command of the NAC theatre, with the occasional assistance of Tiger Rosa on back-up vocals — a contributor on Neverlove. For the most part he roamed the expansive stage presenting his play, a one man hip-hopera on point like a metronome, scratching, sampling, spitting bars while flashing his personal repertoire of dance moves. A consummate professional whose time spent honing his craft radiates each time he stepped to the mic, flowing with a continuous stream of beats he rode endlessly across a blend of tracks intertwining seamlessly. With command of his craft, he took control of the audience fastened in the Maxwell position. The room was quiet for the most part, with exception to Buck acolytes mouthing his words with arms in the air, but tracks like “Wicked and Weird” and “Gee Whiz” made you want to tear the seats from their place and rampage with Buck on stage. The venue befitted the mood of his Neverlove album, accentuating his abilities and providing an ample space to put on a performance as varied and creative as his music.
During the set he paused for interludes and indulged the audience with storytelling that has endeared him to listeners of R2 Drive. He admitted the venue presented a weird vibe however it was our mission to rise above it. He cracked jokes and told a story or two — most memorable an omitted excerpt from his upcoming book, expressing his adoration, as we all have, for Bob Barker and the moment he came face to face with the silver haired legend and his majestic slim microphone. Using each interlude he set the tone for the tracks to come. During the second interlude he warned us the show was about to get weird and wished to not be taken out of context, like a former colleague, right before picking the music back up with an ode to side boobs.
Along with deep emotional explorations and witty banter, hardier tracks saw Buck 65 hunched over, bobbing up and down as he spat audacious rhymes filled with the wistful rebellious nature which has forever been the cornerstone of hip-hop prior to the quest of the post-Pac/BIG throne. His style is a throwback, a combination of the stellar Atmosphere with the vocal stylings of Slug and the rhythmic mastery of Ant, with Beastie Boys/Rage Against the Machine hybrid flow and Biz Markie antics. The entirety of the performance was manic, chaotic and wildly creative — able to induce a hallucinative state through unique blends of sounds and lighting that matched his frantic pace. Not many hip-hop acts would have succeeded in such a venue, but Buck displayed nothing but utter confidence as an artist. Not holding back, he gives in to every creative impulse to explore the many facets of music, not only hip-hop, but country, blues, and R&B among others, all while maintaining his original essence — some buck from Mount Uniacke.
It felt like a trance was lifted when his impressive set ended. As he walked off stage we the audience, now addicts, grew to a raucous applause in an attempt to lure him back on stage. The crowd cheered loudly when he re-entered the room followed by Tiger Rosa to close the show with two more tracks. As he left the stage for the last time, the crowd rose to its feet to bid farewell to a phenomenal performance.