A Night with Daniel Caesar and Snoh Aalegra

Photo courtesy of Mikey Avila.

“I am already crying” was the phrase of the night. Concertgoers showed up to the venue two hours before the sold out show to secure a good view. While in line, some attendees prepared for exams using study guides saved to their phones.

Tickets for the show were sold out within days of being made available on the UCSD Box Office website. From the moment they were posted back in August to minutes before the doors opened, people were still buying and selling tickets on the UCSD Free and For Sale Facebook group. One attendee spent $60 to attend the highly anticipated show.

Illuminated by the stage lights, the show opener Snoh Aalegra gracefully mounted the stage wearing an iridescent long sleeve blouse and a white leather skirt. Her set, a mix of songs from her EP Don’t Explain and her debut album FEELS, was like driving down the California coast on a partly cloudy day; calming, introspective, restorative.

Aalegra’s deep, raspy voice took some audience members aback as she greeted us with her song “In Your River.” As she transitioned into her song “Home,” she took a moment to explain that her Persian heritage and Swedish upbringing often made it hard for her to find a home, or one physical place where she felt welcomed. She explained that moving to Los Angeles helped her realize that home does not need to be physical; for her, home is where the heart is. She wooed us with her saccharine lullaby “Fool For You” before she and her pianist Xavier enchanted us with a rousing mashup of “What You Won’t Do For Love,” “I Wanna Know,” “In Your River,” and “Goosebumps.”

After the melody, Aalegra changed the mood with her upbeat jam “You Got Me” before ending with “Under the Influence” and exiting the stage. Throughout her set, she delivered a slow, measured cadence, creating a sultry vibe usually only experienced at old-time jazz clubs.

Then Daniel Caesar bounded onto the stage, wearing a linen, navy, blue button-up and trouser combo, and members of the audience threw their hands up in bliss to welcome him.

Everyone crooned along to Caesar’s intro song “Japanese Denim,” and screamed the lyrics of the chorus “my blue jeans!” together. This energy from the audience set the trend for the rest of the night.

Songs like “Best Part” from his more recent album Freudian and “Death and Taxes” from his debut album Pilgrim’s Paradise made the eyes of those around me sparkle. Audience members whispered along to the lyrics so they would not overpower Caesar’s voice. When he rocked out to “Hold Me Down,” the crowded swayed along to the scales.

Caesar’s music style stems from his upbringing in a household where Black music artists like Stevie Wonder and Luther Vandross were the norm. The gospel-like flows made it seem like we were at church. Caesar anointed us with his performance of “Blessed,” encouraging the audience to repeat lyrics after him. This song shifted the dynamic from one of a lecture-like performance to one of a collective healing.

The bass’s heavy vibrato reverberated through the venue as the band transitioned to “Freudian” and Caesar amped us up before running off the stage and saying “Thank you, San Diego!” The shocked crowd cheered in attempt to bring him back, crying out, “One more song! One more song!” Caesar slid back onto the stage and his pianist began playing the chords for “Get You,” sending the crowd into a state of pure euphoria.

The show ended with delight on the faces of nearly every attendee. It was received with a great amount of praise. One attendee said, “I think this show changed what I thought about the concerts [at UCSD].” If anything, this show proved that UC San Diego can come alive, even in the midst of midterms season.

Amarachi Metu is a Staff Writer for the Arts and Entertainment section of The Triton.