Photos courtesy of John Cotter
“I haven’t performed here in, what, four years?”
It’s been a minute since NAV has performed in Chicago, and it wasn’t lost on him for a second. Evident in his vocal excitement to be back in the Windy City, NAV — along with openers RealestK and SoFaygo — made their second of 22 nationwide shows an unmissable affair in every facet imaginable, with the “NEVER:SLEEP” tour setting a high bar for live shows in 2023.
The evening began with a soulful, R&B-flared performance from newcomer RealestK, as the Canadian artist’s soothing showcase acted as the perfect precursor to the rage that was soon to follow. You might recognize him from his viral, Billboard-charting hit song “WFM,” which made for one of the very rare cases where a trending song sounds better in a live environment. Running through much of his debut album Dreams 2 Reality , the 18-year-old let his beautiful voice shine on just about every song in his discography — with similarly impressive live renditions — as tracks like “Toxic” and “Love Me” cemented his success early on.
Then came the young generation’s favorite pink-hearted rager, SoFaygo. Fresh off 2022’s Pink Heartz and the recent collaborative single “Double Faces” with Money Musik and NAV, SoFaygo has been close to this generation’s ears for a few years now, giving him plenty of musical ammunition to work with. It was hard for me not to resist dancing and raging a bit. When I found myself entrapped within Faygo’s sonic grasp, I knew that this wouldn’t be my last time hearing “Hell Yeah” alongside an electrifying crowd.
The song that hit the best for Faygo had to be “Off The Map.” The peaking synths and adrenaline-pumping 808s paired with his emphatic performance was the perfect potion for this young crowd — and myself. When you’re at the “NEVER:SLEEP” tour, listen for a preview of SoFaygo’s unreleased song “Problems,” as you just might get a preview as to what the “Knock Knock” star has queued up for his fans. Hardcore Faygo fans must’ve gotten the message though, as the Cactus Jack signee had maybe the most devoted fan that I’ve seen at a show, ever.
It’s no secret that Chicago is a highlight for many touring musicians. But under the timely circumstances, NAV was ready to give a special performance, involving the crowd in more ways that even the most interactive of artists do. Beginning with “Never Sleep,” the track acted as a cold open, busting the doors down with the thumping drums and one of Tay Keith’s signature tags blasting through the speakers. The Toronto native played through an impressive 30-song setlist that’s not only sequenced to tonal perfection, but ebbs-and-flows through his half-decade of hip-hop dominance with purpose — making it a performance worthy of a four year wait.
The exponential hype that was rising throughout the evening exploded during his time on stage, with billowing smoke giving an illusive, shadowy vibe that contrasts the illuminated visuals that bask his silhouette. This is what made the slower, more rhythmic tracks in NAV’s performance like “Myself” and “Call Me” all the more enticing for the audience.
When there were about a handful of songs left in the show, I was feeling satisfied — especially knowing that he gave his hardcore fans the nearly half-decade payoff they’ve been waiting for. But then, seemingly out of nowhere, NAV realized how much this Chicago audience loved him, and he returned the favor. He left stage and walked down into the crowd, performing both “No Debate” and “Baguettes in the Face” inside the pit with fans. That’s not an obligation for any artist, rather proof of their reciprocal appreciation for the many supporters that allow for shows like this to happen.
After dropping “Lately,” the first single for his upcoming album NAV 2, the XO artist mentioned that he wouldn’t be dropping the album until after the tour. This tour is proof of NAV’s foresight in waiting to drop, with a preserved set list that’s jam-packed with hits, underrated gems and fan favorites.
Get your tickets for the “NEVER:SLEEP” tour HERE.