Jeremih cares about three things: Chicago, “the ladies” and his fans. (And let’s not even get started on ladies from Chicago, fans who are ladies or fans from Chicago. Or, fans who are ladies from Chicago. You get the idea.) At the Riviera Theatre for A&O Ball on Friday night, his show revolved around those three interests.
He talked about how it “feels good to be home, man,” and told the crowd his onstage DJ was also from Chicago. He dedicated nearly every song to the ladies in one way or another, and even brought a student on stage during “Birthday Sex,” where he ended up making out with her. (Yes, in front of the entire crowd. Yes, it looked awkward. Yes, dreams can come true.) And he left the show up to the fans – even letting them choose between “old shit” and “new shit” instead of performing with a setlist.
Jeremih performed at the Riv for an hour or so Friday night, thanks to Ball co-sponsors A&O Productions and For Members Only, NU’s Black student alliance. Lately, Ball headliners have been more up and coming – like hip-hop duo Rae Sremmurd in 2016 or electronic duo Chromeo in 2015 – meaning there was more excitement, and more expectations, for a hitmaker like Jeremih.
Not surprisingly, he delivered. Jeremih stuck to what he knew: smooth vocals, catchy hooks and songs about sex. That was all he needed to give the students in the audience a break from their midterms, and based off their excitement, at its peak during “oui,” it seemed to work.
Throughout the show, Jeremih kept reminding the audience that he can make a hit. He’s the kind of artist who makes you think, “Oh, that’s by him?” when you hear songs like “Down on Me” or “Don’t Tell ‘Em” for the first time in a few years. These upbeat songs were definitely fun, but the real treat was when Jeremih let his vocals shine. He took to the piano for a surprisingly smooth, stripped-down beginning to the “Birthday Sex” performance that will go down in Northwestern history. Later on, “Impatient” offered him the best opportunity to show off his vocals, and he made the most of it.
It would’ve been amazing to hear even more of that voice, but a fair amount of Jeremih’s time on stage wasn’t spent singing. In the middle of the set, he left to put on a new jacket and a hat while his DJ and dancers performed, and he fittingly followed the lost time with “Impatient.” He also relied on backing vocals a fair amount – kind of standard practice in contemporary R&B today, but it’s still nice to hear someone sing the chorus of a song. In the end, though, this was a college show, and most of the audience was there for the good time that Jeremih brought.
Aminé got that good time started as opener, but played a less memorable set. He won over most of the audience when he debuted a custom Northwestern basketball jersey, and kept their interest with a cover of Frank Ocean’s “Novacane,” unreleased songs like “Spice Girl” and catchy singles like “Baba.” But the live version of his inescapable singalong “Caroline” was confusing – he started off with minimal backing, then the DJ kicked in for a verse before Aminé relied on the audience to sing an entire verse and hook a capella.
The high point of Aminé’s set, by far, ended up being when he brought out Chicago rapper Joey Purp to rap his addictive Chance the Rapper collab “Girls @.” It’s a wonder why Purp didn’t open the show himself. Blowout, anyone?
While Aminé left the audience thinking about what could’ve been, Jeremih left the audience with his show’s thesis: Chicago, the ladies and his fans. Toward the end of the performance, he thanked other giants of the Chicago music scene, like Kanye West and R. Kelly. When he played new single “Think of You” for the audience, he was surrounded by 10 or so women on stage. And he told the audience that “oui” was about them, the fans, since “there’s no oui without you and I.” It was only right that he performed “oui” again as an encore, and left with a reminder (in case you forgot): “Ladies, I love you.”
Editor's note: This story was updated to include a photo gallery. This change was made on April 24 at 11:45 a.m.