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Concert Reviews

REVIEW – Nadiem Launches “Exception Tour” with Hometown Show

Nadiem performing on opening night of Exception Tour.

Review by Jeff Nelson
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As I walked into Skully’s Music-Diner, I’ll admit I thought it was going to be somewhat empty for the night. DJ Flugazi was playing music to get the crowd moving before Nadiem went on stage, and everyone was sticking close to the bar or along the edges of the room. It felt more like a middle school dance than a hip-hop show.

Then, right before the show started, Flugazi told everyone to step up toward the stage and almost everyone followed along, crowding the stage and getting excited as he played Sicko Mode. This took the energy right up to the level it needed to be.

All the lights went out before a video played on the screen behind the stage. It started with a list of “thank-yous,” then Nadiem began explaining that he always felt stuck in a binary of this or that. A montage of clips from past performances flowed across the screen, followed by “Welcome to Chapter 2” before another full blackout engulfed the venue.

Nadiem popped up on the stage with a galaxy of stars behind him for his first song. He was flanked by dancers that performed choreographed dances while he sang. He was already getting the crowd involved, waving arms from side to side, and everyone emphatically followed his every move.

While the previous song had more of an R&B style to it, the next allowed him to rap a little more. This got the crowd jumping and some were singing along with him. He walked back and forth on the stage, shaking hands and taking selfies with people while he performed, and this continued the whole show. “Columbus shows are crazy because I know like 90-percent of the people in this room,” he mentioned after the music had stopped.

Next was one of his most popular songs, I Know. By this point, even people that weren’t too sure about the first two songs were up in the crowd singing along and clapping to the beat. He got people to start singing along for the chorus, with every song enticing more people to start dancing.

He took time between songs to talk to the crowd, mentioning people that were there for him, while saying how much the night meant to him. A lot of people at the show knew Nadiem personally, and it showed how special it was to him that so many people came out to support the local artist.

All the stage lights cut out as Nadiem asked everyone to turn their phone lights on in place of the stage lights. He sang while the lights swayed back and forth, before the stage box kicks back in as he starts to rap. Multiple times during the night he would look out into the crowd and a huge smile would come across his face, even in the middle of a verse. “You can probably tell I’m not used to seeing so many people I know at shows. It means a lot to me.”

He played an unreleased number next, one he said he probably won’t every release, because he likes to have something special for his live shows. It started with a smooth guitar riff before adding a deep bass line as he began to sing. It’s a much more subdued song, allowing him to show his range as well as his emotions.

After this very personal song, he gave a shout out to his twin sister, Nadia, who works with suicide prevention at the Ohio State University. It appears the family is very involved in mental health and activism.

As a complete 180-degree turn, all the lights turned green for a cover of Michigan rapper NF’s Green Lights. The bass was cranked up and the crowd began jumping and moving to the rhythm of the beat. Earlier in the night, he mentioned that one of his dancers was in the crowd last year, where she jumped up and took the mic and started rapping one of his songs. So, for this song, he gave her the mic for a verse, causing everyone to go wild.

To keep the momentum up, he followed this up with 60K, a collaboration he did with Ohio State’s football team. Since most of the crowd consisted of Buckeye fans, we were all psyched up about this song. He got the crowd involved for the chorus, singing behind him as he rapped about campus staples like the Oval and That Team Up North.

It was around this time I realized that every song has its own, professional looking graphic that is projected behind Nadiem. They are all unique to each song; sometimes pulsing with the beat, they follow themes within each number, and they are incredibly well polished. Again, Nadiem takes his craft very seriously.

His next tune had him dancing with his crew, as well as just bouncing around the stage and interacting with the crowd. His stage presence is well honed, and it looks like he’s been performing and rapping professionally for a lot longer than two years. He has a natural ability to get everyone in the crowd involved with each song, as well as connecting with them all individually.

He brought a 16-year-old rapper from Cleveland who goes by Cutta up on the stage to freestyle with him on a new beat he had made recently. They both traded verses before Nadiem got the crowd involved, once again.

After this he took a moment to deviate from the generally up tempo show for Therapy. “I wanted to play all happy songs, but lil dude got me feeling like I need to talk about these things.” This was the most real song he played all night. It’s about mental health, and it used stories he’s heard from his fans and how he deals with these things, as well as his own struggles.

To bring things back from the energy of the last song, he took a moment to introduce his girlfriend, saying that she’s the best thing that happened to him in 2019. Then he breaks into the next song, another one that shows off his vocal abilities. It’s apparent he loves crowd participation, and everyone there was more than happy to oblige.

Nadiem had been relatively humble all show, so for All I Do he took a moment to brag a bit. He also took the opportunity to completely let loose, dancing and vibing on stage, as well as calling out people in the audience to come dance with him. This was one of his most “conventional” rap songs, and it is a banger.

“If you’re not the one making change in your community, no one else will,” he said, imploring everyone to do something to make a difference, before breaking into One Man Can Change the World, a Big Sean cover. He was raw and emotional, again another complete change from the previous song. The whole performance was an example of how well he can control the tempo and the energy of the show to peak at exactly the right moment. As he walked off the stage, everyone yelled for an encore.

Flugazi got everyone to get as loud as possible to get Nadiem back on stage. After a minute or two, he burst back out, and the energy went all the way to 11 for the final song. I’ve seen punk shows with less movement than what was on display this night. Everyone was off their feet, and if he had rolled into another twelve-song set, I doubt anyone would have been upset. At the very end of this song, he made an announcement, to thunderous applause from the crowd.

* was asked not to disclose the contents of the announcement until it has been officially made public. We respect and will honor the request, of course.

When the show had ended and people were heading out of the venue, there was a large group crowded around the merch table to get a chance to talk to Nadiem. Some wanted to congratulate him, others just wanted a chance to get a picture with him.

It was obvious that Nadiem has a large following here in Columbus, as well as the rest of the world. With this record deal, as well as another tour on the horizon, Nadiem has his eyes on the prize, and the only place for him to go is up.

Check out Jeff Nelson’s interview with Nadiem HERE

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