Ryan Leslie @ The Metro Theatre, Sydney (25/05/2012)

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Anthony Ryan Leslie is a lot of things. Besides having produced for artists like Beyonce, Usher and P Diddy, he’s a songwriter, recording artist, entrepreneur, social media trailblazer and he’s shared the stage with Kanye West. Given all that, checking R Les out when he stopped off at Sydney’s Metro Theatre was a must.

It was only natural Leslie would have fellow YouTube sensation from Las Vegas Erika David in the support role, who delivered a sensual and powerful mix of R&B and hip-hop covers and demonstrated the reason for her fast-paced success. David rewrote the lyrics and added her own jazzy undertones to tracks including Drake’s Headlines, Wale’s Lotus Flower Bomb and hit it right on the note with Usher’s Diplo-produced Climax. Her set was short but sweet and she certainly brought her A-game, but with the night being unacceptably behind schedule, the crowd lacked involvement with Erika and were clearly impatient for R Les to hit the stage.

Following her exit, it was time for the obligatory Sydney are you ready? intro by the MC that naturally takes place at hip-hop shows, and a little after 10:30pm R Les took the stage like his life depended on it. Playfully bouncing from the stage to behind the keyboard and showcasing the full range of his musicality, he delivered a 90 minute set. Probing the room with a good chunk of his discography was a springboard for beats pouring in and out of each other, as Les traded off samples and melodies from his 2009 self-titled album, Transition and Les Is More. Some of his more recognizable tracks made welcome appearances including How It Was Supposed To Be and 5 Minute Freshen Up, but the peak was undoubtedly an imploded version of his track with Cassie Addicted with its cascading synth melody driving the crowd wild.

Toning it down for something more visceral, he gave props to all his YouTube followers dropping an unreleased track uploaded only five days earlier, followed by Rain In Australia. The crowd, not quite as large as other artists the venue had guested, was slow to get involved but became fully immersed by the time this track had settled in. His energy and creative spontaneity continued throughout the entirety of his set with the help of his DJ and back-up band especially his guitarist who was bombing it with a conventional mainstream mixture of hip-hop tracks including Diamond Girl. After a couple of cheesy staged encores, he sent the crowd mental into a bopping frenzy, belting out “That shit cray!” Cleverly finishing off with a cover of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Niggas In Paris, leaving everyone hanging.

With a performance like tonight’s, it’s clear why Ryan Leslie has earned his cred as a full scope artist and not just a producer: the man is a hit-making machine! But perhaps what was most intriguing thing about him is that on the surface, some may regulate R Les to being a “regular artist”. But with a Harvard education, R Les is certainly no dummy; and some would even argue that his introverted swagger contributes to his musical charm that’s earned him respect from both those inside and outside the music industry.

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