Ghostface Opera House

Ghostface & BadBadNotGood a killer team in Toronto

"Michael Jackson, besides Jesus, was the most popular person to walk the earth," Ghostface Killah proclaims to an Opera House rammed to fish gills on Thursday night.

The most consistent Wu Tang Clan hero is in the ethereal throes of the best kind of musical journey. Earlier he lewdly professed his admiration for R. Kelly and bellowed, "I feel like Lionel Ritchie in here!" Later he'll cut a rug to the Isley Brothers' "Footsteps in the Dark," the slice of soul Ice Cube rejuvenated with "It Was a Good Day."

Ghostface Opera House

Now he and linebacker-sized hypeman Killah Priest are launching into the Jackson 5's "I Want You Back," performed note-perfect by Toronto's own BadBadNotGood.

Ghostface Opera House

Ghost delivers a messy, heartfelt eulogy to friend Ol' Dirty Bastard - the type of dude to wear his filthy socks inside-out instead of washing them, we learn - and conducts the crowd into a sing-along of "Shimmy Ya." He nails a "The World Is Yours" cover in the reflection of smartphones, and boasts: "Nas is gonna see that shit and bug out." He goes on to threaten to buy a second home in our city.

"You know when you're jogging and shit? When you're doing whatever sport," the 44-year-old emcee spouts, "and you get that second wind? You're witnessing my second wind. Everything up till now was Baby Ghost."

Ghostface Opera House

All saggy jeans, non sequiturs and charisma, Tony Starks is the happiest, loosest, and most improvisational I've seen him. And BBNG, with whom he linked up with for Tuesday's Sour Soul LP, deserves to be credited with a big assist.

It's an unlikely combo: the crime-rap legend in his blood-red bubblegoose fronting a trio of jazz-trained Canadian kids, roughly half his age, who grew up on 36 Chambers. It looks like the Wu crashed a high school battle of the bands.

BadBadNotGood Opera House

After the night's free "sold-out" show, an event put on by Converse as part a pop-up studio program, kicked off with a 20-minute set by upcoming local mixtape rapper Raz Fresco, BBNG - Matthew Tavares (keys), Chester Hansen (bass) and Alexander Sowinski (drums) - assumed their positions.

BadBadNotGood Opera House

It's important the band plays its own set before bringing out Ghost for their first performance as a unit; the rapper's XXXL personality is so overpowering, the kids' musicianship can get swallowed.

BadBadNotGood Opera House

Hansen and Sowinski look back to the drum kit, taking their cues from Tavares, the clear leader. There's a searing Flying Lotus cover; a nice saxophone appearance; a killer rendition of III's "Kaleidoscope," and the debut of a new BBNG joint, "Four Shots," which sees Tavares go full Whiplash on the drums.

Factor the wind chill and it's minus-32 outside, but indoors, the elbow-to-elbow crowd is fired-up proper when Ghost strolls out, drumsticks hanging out his pocket for no reason.

Ghostface Opera House

The classics link together like drink tickets: "I Can't Go to Sleep," "Run," "Daytona 500," "Nutmeg," "One," "We Made It," "Mighty Healthy," "New God Flow."

For the climax, Ghost takes it back to 1993, performing "Can It Be All So Simple," "Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing ta Fuck Wit," and "C.R.E.A.M."

Ghostface Opera House

Before peacing out, he promises to be back in Toronto next month, or maybe April - "I don't know. One of them shits" - with GZA and Cappadonna.

Ghostface tosses the unused drumsticks into a tangle of raised hands.

Not all free shows are priceless, naw mean? This one was.


Raz Fresco

Raz Fresco Opera HouseRaz Fresco Opera HouseRaz Fresco Opera House


BadBadNotGood Opera HouseBadBadNotGood Opera House


Ghostface Opera HouseGhostface Opera HouseGhostface Opera House

Writing by Luke Fox, photos by Matt Forsythe

Latest Videos

Latest Videos

Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in Music

You'll soon be able to jam out to Pink Floyd music by candlelight in Toronto

Drake shouts out TTC driver who sang his song on major bus route in Toronto

Olivia Rodrigo's Guts tour is officially coming to Toronto

Toronto actress goes into labour at Beyoncé show

Enter for a chance to win an OLG VIP Experience for 4 at Budweiser Stage on Sept. 22

Ed Sheeran 'sad' to be leaving Canada

Enter for a chance to win an OLG VIP Experience for 4 at Budweiser Stage on Sept. 19

15 long lost music venues in Toronto