Three familiar drum beats pierced through the buzz of the audience as Daniel Caesar strolled onto stage in the Walter Pyramid and went straight to the microphone to begin his harmonic serenade of “Japanese Denim,” one of the R&B singer’s most popular tracks.
The Toronto born artist’s romantic melodies reverberated off students’ faces Saturday as part of Associated Students, Inc. Big Event, an annual $10 concert which sold out in 40 minutes. His performance provided a clear dichotomy from the opening set, as soundcloud artist Leven Kali prompted students to stand up in their seats and wave their colorful LED lights in the air to crowd favorites “Do U Wrong” and “I Get High When I Think About Us.”
While Kali’s songs were not known by many at first, he created an energy among the students that had many dancing in the isles and on the floor level. The blues and soul tone of his voice was complemented by his band “The Moon,” consisting of funk inspired guitar and bass by his eccentric cast.
“Put the light sticks away, I wanna see your hands,” Caesar told the crowd a few songs into his set. The request resulted in an immediate mood change, as the audience turned off their lights and swayed to the slow harmonies and hums from the artist.
It’s hard to feel at home standing in front of a crowd of 4,000, but Caesar did so with ease, with his relaxed stance drawing the audience closer to him. His olive green Vans were planted firmly on the worn out red rug on stage and his pastel pink hair rocked back and forth with the audience.
The occasional light in the audience swung from side to side with Caesar’s slow songs while a low hum filled the arena as students sang along.
When the beginning guitar chords began for “Best Part,” Caesar’s most known song, he performed the second half in a spoken word fashion and had the audience sing the melody. The five bright lights cast a stark silhouette on stage as he held out his microphone to the crowd and smiled as they sang his lyrics.
Caesar reminded the audience throughout the night how thankful he was to be performing in Long Beach, a first for him. “I always wanted to have a show in California when I was growing up because it’s always sunny here,” he said as students gave proud cheers. “I literally started screaming in the van when we pulled up and saw how many of y’all there were.”
The artist closed on a crowd favorite, “Blessed.” White lights pulsated on the screen to the song’s closing as Caesar walked off to the lyrics “coming back home.”
Only a handful of students left their seats while the arena insisted on an encore from Caesar. The music came back before him and the whimsical strings of “Get You” filled the pyramid as he walked up to the microphone just in time to utter the first few lyrics, with about 4,000 backup singers.
Pink lights flooded the air while Caesar sang about making love and feeling lucky with the person you’re with. Students closed their eyes and sang along, chanting the lyrics “paradise,” and for many, the night was.