When I first saw NAV perform, about 2 years ago, it was at the Xcel Center in St. Paul where he was touring with his fellow Canadian and XO teammate The Weeknd. Unfortunately, NAV was anything but spectacular. While The Weeknd’s performance was memorable, NAV’s awful performance was almost more so: He was stagnant on stage, used copious amounts of autotune, and everything felt extremely out-of-place. I was a bit worried that this show would be more of the same. But I had hope- I hoped that in the past few years NAV somehow gained some stage presence and enough confidence to muster a decent performance and redeem himself. I wanted to give NAV a clean slate.
NAV Makes the Crowd Wait for It
Things started off a bit rocky, as NAV made the sold-out crowd wait for almost an hour after the opener, Killy, ended his set. Not great. Travis Scott, as one of my fellow photographers remarked, can make you wait an hour. Kanye can make you wait for an hour. NAV, however, has yet to gain that sort of power. The crowd grew restless, especially after multiple “NAV! NAV! NAV!” chants failed to bring the Ontario product out.
Finally, a bit past 9, NAV jumped on stage and began his set. He opened up with “To My Grave,” also the opening track of his newest album and also the title of his tour, Bad Habits. He also played “Know Me” and “Ralo” right away, two more songs off the new album. He took a quick break, chatted with the crowd, then dove into one of his bigger hits: “Wanted You” featuring Lil Uzi.
The crowd loved it. At a smaller venue like The Varsity, NAV didn’t need to go crazy in order to keep them in it. Unlike his performance at the Xcel, NAV was in control. At one point, he even reached out and gave some high fives in between songs. He seemed much more relaxed, and correctly stood like he was the one the people came to see. It was refreshing.
NAV gave us a nice throwback to his debut album but playing some of his earlier hits, including “Myself” and “Up”. The crowd was extremely familiar with these tracks and it was actually fun to hear them live again after a few years.
At one point he removed his signature sunglasses to give us a better look of his face (and probably to make it easier to wipe the sweat from his eyes) but I gotta say: leave ’em on.
He also tossed in a few Metro Boomin-produced tracks from their collaborative album Perfect Timing, most notably “Minute”. NAV is the sort of artist to give you that “Oh wow, I forgot he made this song!” moment, but then make you happy you remembered again.
The “NAV Feature”
NAV relies heavily on what I like to call “The Feature- But Also A Bit More” type of hit, which is basically when he features an artist like The Weeknd or Travis Scott but gives them waaaay more than just a verse (usually the hooks plus a verse). Essentially, NAV knows his strengths and allows the more all-around artists to carry the songs while he takes a backseat. He focused on these radio hits towards the end of his set. The crowd especially loved “Champion,” the mega-hit that “featured” Travis Scott from his previous album, as well as “TAP” featuring a lengthy verse(s) from Meek Mill, off Bad Habits.
NAV’s performance at the Varsity was solid and entertaining. It was enjoyable to see NAV come out of his shell. He looked comfortable on stage and had the crowd jumping throughout his set. In fact, the crowd was so steamy and sweaty the whole place probably had dew points in the 80s- he had them working hard. It’s a clean slate for you NAV, you redeemed yourself.