Theophilus London at Tattoo

New York City performer sings, raps and complains


THEOPHILUS LONDON at Tattoo, Friday, February 20. Rating: N

Theophilus London is often described as an eclectic pop musician who skips between hip-hop, electro-funk, dance music, rare groove and new wave. He sings and raps but what he is really good at is complaining.

“This mic looks pretty beat up. We have to switch this mic out,” the New York-based performer announced upon arriving onstage. Then he disappeared.

It was an inauspicious moment and the first of many bitchy excuses hurled at no one in particular: the lights are too bright, the DJ downstairs is too loud, the stage is too cramped, it’s too cold outside, “the sound here is weird.” Boston was the real first show on the tour, he explained, because, “I wasn’t paying attention in Atlanta and in New York I was on autopilot.”

If his insecurity was not made clear enough by his banter, it came through loudly in his performance.

No matter how much shade London threw or how tightly his three-piece band played the gliding funk rhythms off last year’s Vibes! album, nothing could hide his flat, tuneless singing, indiscernible delivery and affectless rapping. He wore an over-sized Varsity jacket and sunglasses that he never removed, and his body language was tense and closed off in contrast to his flirty, escapist club music.

He seemed completely disinterested in recent single Can’t Stop. As Kanye West’s pre-recorded verse played, he cradled a woman onstage for far too long in one of several instances he let songs run on while doing nothing in particular.

When London did manage to get a vibe going – usually because women in the crowd, clearly sensing he needed some motivation, charitably jumped onstage to dance – he promptly killed it again. Arms were in the air during banger Do Girls, which he followed up by mumbling something about ensuring we get our money’s worth and disappeared again, leaving the band to jam awkwardly.

Was this the encore moment? It was hard to tell. Half the audience was long gone.

kevinr@nowtoronto.com | @kevinritchie

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