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blog rene11Chris Rene welcomed back to Santa Cruz with open arms at ‘Love Life’ event

On Sunday, Jan. 29, 2012—a day that Mayor Don Lane announced would officially be referred to as Chris Rene Day in Santa Cruz—the local hero took the stage of the sold-out Civic Auditorium to celebrate his homecoming and give something back to the drug and alcohol rehabilitation center that made his recent success possible.

The rapper/songwriter and Santa Cruz native is coming off a year that saw him finish in the top three on the first season of FOX’s The X Factor, and enthusiasm for his return was evident in the line of fans that stretched around the block of the auditorium, hours before its doors opened. Many fans carried signs and wore homemade T-shirts featuring words of solidarity for the artist, including his catch phrase, “Love Life.”

Tickets benefited the recovery programs at Janus Santa Cruz, represented at the event by Rene’s substance abuse counselor Timothy Fry and Executive Director Rod Libbey, who accepted a check of $1,500 from Rene. Mayor Lane followed with his announcement, presenting a plaque to Rene, who was visibly moved and humbled by the honor. “Nine months ago I did not think I would be here,” Rene said to the audience.

Rene proceeded to christen his day with a set of original songs, often joined onstage by friends and family, including his sister Gina, who also competed on The X Factor. The siblings performed a duet of Rene’s “Where Do We Go From Here,” before sending fans into hysteria with his mega-hit “Young Homie.”

For the passionate crowd—a diverse group of varying ages—it was a brief but satisfying set. Amy Mayo, who watched Rene on The X Factor and attended Sunday’s concert, said, “You feel his energy even when you’re watching TV, but it was very cool seeing him live. It was exactly what I expected it to be.”

blog rene2Sharon Kirkwood, another fan at the event, commented on Rene’s talent for performing live. “There’s nothing like it,” she said. “You have to have his presence.”

Judging by the surging crowd and the rapper’s onstage charisma, it appears as though Rene’s journey has only just begun. “He’s just a ray of light,” said Kirkwood. “He’s going to change the world.”

Photos: Mark Davey

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