SEAL UPDATE #3: (NOTE: I'll try to explain as much as I can without trampling on people's privacy. So I won't give any juicy details about the conversations I had with various people from the band and the crew. But I'll be as accurate as possible.)
A month after Seal and I sang together, Seal messaged me on twitter. We sorta (secretly) kept in touch since then. We had planned to meet up again, but he was in the middle of a tour and I was also fairly deep into my projects and work. I would sometimes glance at the cities he would be touring and Montreal never seemed to be on the list (which is unfortunate, considering all the hype he got here since the duet). But the Niagara Falls show dates tickled me a little. I was touring with my band (The Scroll) around the same time in Toronto and I was wondering if I could swing by Niagara Falls to perform with him. I held myself from shooting him an email because I didn't want to 'invite myself' so to speak. But finally, two days before the Niagara Falls shows I decided to just send him a quick message to tell him that I *could* be at the shows if he felt like having me. He answered me back, and seemed very into it. 'Just show up at the soundcheck for the first show', he explained.
30hs later, I had rented a car with my two friends (one had a great deal with a rental company), and hit the road for Niagara Falls. I arrived outside the venue around 2:30pm. The shows were going to take place in the Fallsview Casino- a very impressive place. Suddenly, I get messages from Seal and Chris (his tour manager) that I was to perform "tomorrow". Since my Messenger sometimes screws up and receives messages late, I wasn't sure if 'tomorrow' was 'today' or 'tomorrow' was really 'tomorrow'. I was confused. I messaged them back, but I got no answer (probably because they were busy). There was a phone number in the message, I tried it but it didn't work. Out of luck, I decided to just show up at the casino and ask in person. Security was very strict, so they let me wait outside until they got a hold of Chris.
After 5min or so, Chris walked out. As we shook hands, he kindly tells me I'm not performing in today's show. I was a little disappointed, but whatever, I could wait a day.
So we hopped in the car and headed back to Toronto. When we were just entering Toronto's city limits, I received a call from Chris. He said that he talked to Seal and that 'Seal would like you to play today's show, so to please come for soundcheck in an hour'. We turned the car around and headed back to Niagara Falls.
We entered the concert venue. It's like a opera house- very big. Members of Seal's band are working on songs and fiddling around. I noticed that there were only two of them (a guitarist/keyboardist/singer and a programmer/dj/synth/singer). I remember wondering how they were going to emulate Seal's albums as a three piece. I was intrigued. I was then escorted backstage by security. The backstage area was pretty sweet- a lot of food and snacks. I took advantage of that, as I was a little hungry and eating healthy in Niagara Falls is impossible.
I was started to get bored backstage, so I decided to sit and watch soundcheck. After almost an hour of waiting, Seal suddenly appeared onstage after a jog. Seal and the two other members start soundchecking a few songs. They then went through various things and changes for tonight's show. What struck me was how hands-on Seal was with his live shows. He had a relaxed focus that was very professional. He'll use the soundcheck as a practice as much as a sound mix thing.
After doing a handful of songs (all of them sounding fantastic, like a 'more electronic Massive Attack version of Seal'), he yells out 'Hey J Deeh! How are you, man? You wanna come up?'. I go onstage. We hug it out and chat for a minute. Then he asks me what I'd like to play. I glanced at one of his earlier setlists and I noticed that he played Prince's song 'Hot Thing'. The amazing thing about that is that my band, The Scroll, covered Hot Thing too, lately. So out of the 500+ Prince songs, Seal and I pick the same obscure track. How cool is that? Unfortunately, Seal had other songs in mind. I tell him we could play Chris Isaak's Wicked Game (a song I busk) and then we could merge it with Stand By Me. He said, 'sure!'. So we run through both songs once. They sound great. He then asks me which other songs I would like to play. I kinda froze for a second. 'You want me to play more songs?', I thought to myself. 'That's pretty gracious of Seal'. I start going through a few of his songs. We jam parts of Whirlpool, Deep Water, Just Like Before and No Easy Way. I especially wanted to play Whirlpool and Deep Water, but we moved on, probably because he hadn't played them in a while. He asks me if I could do my multi-vocal cover version of his song 'Bring It On', but I told him I'd need to duplicate myself 20 times for that.
Jamming with him at soundcheck, I realized how much of an artist Seal is. He likes to take chances and be uncomfortable. All the concert DVDs and the show I saw in Montreal years ago were very precise and meticulous. Those backing bands recreated his album tracks very efficiently. Now, with just a two member backup band for this tour, it takes a lot of improvising to give some tracks justice. So even though it's risky and limiting, it's also very exciting. I felt I could throw ideas at Seal and he'd listen. Of course, I didn't have the balls to do that too much, so I was just happy to play a couple of songs in *his* show. I didn't wanna overstay my welcome for the sake of the audience.
After soundcheck, I go backstage. I chat with Isaac, the guitarist, and Tim, the programmer/synth player. Both are incredible at what they do. Just practicing with them at soundcheck you could tell they were attentive and very talented. Playing with them is like driving a high performance car that you will never afford. I was seriously impressed. They are also very approachable and nice.
The show started at 8:30pm. The venue was sold out, so there was a good vibe. Seal the co. walk onstage and rage into Killer. It sounded updated and awesome. The screen in back was a nice touch too. The crowd was into it, but a little reserved, so for the second song Seal hopped into the crowd and sang to random people. It went over well. Then they played tracks from the new album and a couple of older hits. Midway through the show, Seal grabs a guitar and starts to play slow numbers. He plays a few covers that go over well. Then the show ends with fantastic versions of My Vision and The Right Life.
The plan was to have me come onstage during the encore, so I sneak backstage to get ready. My nerves were starting to get to me. Mostly because I hadn't slept a lot the night before and I could feel that my mind was shaky and not focused. But I know that by the time I start playing, I'll be ok. After a couple of dance tracks, Seal introduces me. Most of the crowd knows our viral video, so they knew having me for the show was a rare one off. I walk onstage to an amazing applause. I am pleasantly surprised. The vibe in the room is electric. I start playing Wicked Game. The crowd is there with us. I'm feeling the vibes. Midway, Seal takes over the vocals a little and then we harmonize. Sounds great. We even improvise a little on the fly. Then we start Stand By Me (our viral hit). The crowd goes nuts and starts singing along. It's funny to think that we did it as a duet two months ago and now 3000 people were singing along. Ironically, I sing Seal's part and then Seal sings mine (the opposite of the video). By this time, I'm relaxed and having a good time. I was feeling the moment. Then, the song ends, people applaud. Seal and I hug, and I yell in Seal's mic (jokingly) 'Now, play some hits!' before walking off.
The next song performed was Kiss From a Rose. I decided to not return to my seat because I felt naked out there. Backstage, the crew was coming up to me and giving me compliments. I was so relieved and happy that it went so well.
For the last song, Seal kicks into Crazy (one of my favourite songs). I hated the sound from backstage, so I decided to go back to my seat. Of course, with my suit, weird hair, face jewels and makeup, people instantly recognized me and started to give me praise. I was so shy. I remember this dude just randomly slapped my ass as if to say 'love ya!'. lol. I was on cloud nine- just dancing with people to good music and shaking hands. After the show, Seal had a meet and greet. So I waited until he was done to tell him thank you. Finally, Seal walks over to my backstage area. 'That was great! Perfect! Wasn't that fun?', he says softly. I agree. I hug him and thank him for everything. Then he asks if I'm here tomorrow. I say, 'yes'. 'Then play the show with us again'. At first, I didn't wanna ruin the perfect moment we just had by risking another. But I ultimately agreed because it was so fun.
That night we drove back to Toronto. We were soooooo tired- falling asleep at the wheel. We slept at my buddy's place. Around 8am, we get up. I wanted to see an old high school friend, so I hung out with her for a few hours. Then we were off to Niagara Falls again. We arrive at soundcheck around 5pm. Seal and the band are already onstage going through some songs. Seal and the band wave, we wave back. This time I don't soundcheck with them. 'Last night our duet was pretty much perfect, so why bother?', Seal said. Can't argue with that.
Friday's show started later (9-ish), so we decided to walk around and see the Falls and eat. Almost every street block people came up to me to say they loved me last night. It was really surreal and humbling.
At the 9pm show, the crowd was more rowdy and into it. The setlist was quite different from yesterday's show (http://www.setlist.fm/…/avalon-ballroom-theatre-niagara-fal…). He said different things to the audience between songs and went into the audience on a different song and sang to a woman (one of the high points of the show) during a Hall and Oats cover. He also changed a handful of songs and added some more. It was the better show of the two nights. Midway, Seal kicks into Whirlpool and Deep Water (two songs we tried out the day before). I was so happy. From the stage, Isaac (the guitarist) glanced at me clapping in my seat, knowing I'd like the surprise.
I go backstage right before the encore. This time Seal just brings me onstage with him and he talks about our experience to the audience. The crowd is electric like the night before, so when we kick into Chris Isaak they go nuts. Then, we segue into Stand By Me. The crowd eats it up again. Great sing-along and applause. Seal and I hug and I run offstage. Again, awesome!
This time I decide to not go back to my seat and just dance backstage. I needed to go to the bathroom, but just before I urinate, I hear Seal yelling 'Where's J Deeh? J Deeh?' from the stage. Chris, the tour manager comes running to get me. I run onstage a little confused. 'What's up?'. 'Somebody in the audience has requested we do Prince's Raspberry Beret. Do you know the chords?', Seal asks me in my ear. I tell him 'not really'. Chris hands me a mic and before I know it, we are performing the song. I just sing falsetto at the chorus and do synth parts with my voice. The crowd is really into it. It's a lot of fun. Unfortunately, after the performance, I'd realized that I forgot to zip up my fly. This is my life.
After the show, the band and some of their friends are hanging out in the backstage kitchen area. Seal suddenly strolls in, singing Frank Sinatra's Luck Be A Lady in a funny way. He's doing jokes and is a lot of fun. We hang out for a half hour. Talking about Sinatra, Prince and his death, health and massages. We also sing songs too like we were drunks in a bar. It was really cool. Knowing we had a long drive to do, I decide to call it a night and thank Seal for everything (again). We talk about future plans a little. Then I grab my bags and head out. Outside the venue a handful of people swarmed me and wanted to take photos. It was cute. I was awkward as usual, but very flattered they loved it.
The drive back to Toronto was almost as hard as the night before because of the lack of sleep. It was now 3 nights of getting 4-5 hours of sleep. We crash at my friend's place again. I remember falling asleep midway through conversation for a second. The next morning, we get up early (by this time waking up was very difficult) and drive back to Montreal.
Anyway, to put it simply: The experience was surreal, fun and more than I had hoped. I know most of you are wondering how Seal is in person. Well this is gonna sound like bullshit but it's true: From the couple of nights I've been around him, he's exactly what I hoped he would be. He's just a cool cat. He's very personable but also has a mysteriousness that is intriguing. You sense that he's an original. The dude is gracious and the 'real thing' in terms of being an artist. I'm very sensitive to people who are not sincere, and I don't feel any jadedness and insincerity in Seal. Of course, this is only from the two nights I spent with him. But I'm very proud to be a Seal fan. He really appreciates his fans and people in general. Even as a performer he's at an exciting/intriguing peak.
Anyway, for those who you who are interested in watching my part of the show, here is a multi-cam version I edited that gives you a good idea of how it was to be there!. Check it out!: