Taking part in CBC’s First Play session is always a special occasion. October 10th was a particularly great evening when Chilly Gonzales graced the small audience of “71 carefully vetted people” to perform Solo Piano III after two sold out shows at Koerner Hall.
The evening started off quite solemnly, Gonzales showed around a white piece of paper with “III” on it and proceeded to play the piano for a very intimate, quiet crowd. Ten or so minutes into the set, he picked up the mic and shared some personal stories with the audience – how the year off was meant to help him reconnect with the inner artist and stop being the person he’d become: a person selfishly basking in the attention of an audience. The year off worked, he found his way back to the joy of making music and shed the ego (well, a bit). In fact he found a way to challenge the construct of it, a way to break it in a creative manner. “Be natural” is an example of this – in a typical Gonzales nature he broke down the song by keys, talked to each stroke, brought everyone closer to the melody. And then, things turned up a bit.
After demanding the audience finds their energy and claps as if it was a rap show, Gonzales started talking about his love and appreciation of rap. This talk very smoothly turned into rap. And to anyone seeing Chilly rap for the first time this was undoubtedly a shocking surprise: “Who wants to see me rap?” he asked. Two people raised their arms – me, holding in a slightly evelish smile, and a curious tall gentleman in the back. After briefly playing a game with the two children in the audience he went right into “Fortunately, Unfortunately” and fortunately, it was a big hit.
For the rest of the set Gonzales played a few tracks from Solo Piano II and Solo Piano I mixed between the newest releases. Bowing out from what felt like the last song, he slowly walked around the room as people clapped and cheered. At this point Chilly got under the grand piano, brushed his hair, wiped off the sweat, and begun playing a small electrical piano while under the piano.
The musical genius never fails to surprise and entertain.
cover image by Alexandre Isard; courtesy of the artist