Theophilus London Tattoo, Toronto ON, February 20

Theophilus London Tattoo, Toronto ON, February 20
Photo: Geoff Fitzgerald
For such a seemingly talented dude, Theophilus London seems hell-bent on mediocrity. Right off the jump last night (February 20) at Tattoo in Toronto, the artist swiftly set the tone, complaining that the mic was "beat up" and had to be switched out, that the stage was way too small and that the sound and lighting were not up to par.
"I need y'alls energy," he argued, before claiming to be just getting over being sick ("I couldn't even really talk") as the reason for poor concert reviews in previous stops in Atlanta, NYC and a reportedly egregiously bad Boston show: "I didn't pay no mind in Atlanta and I was on autopilot in New York. I don't really like Boston anyway. A bunch of Irish guys."
Folks came here to see the Brooklyn, New York singer-performer tackle cuts on his frustratingly uneven Vibes! album released last year. The Vibes! album is a curious, difficult-to-define mix of hip-hop, soul, new wave, dance-pop and a dash of punk thrown in for good measure. The actual performance was just as imbalanced: dressed in jeans, a varsity jacket and dark sunglasses, his closed off body language left the crowd feeling distant. While his three-piece backing band were up to the task, London was unfocused in his delivery, with an over-reliance on his backing tracks. There were high points — including a strong rendition of single "Can't Stop," which arrived surprisingly early in the set, and tracks like "Neu Law," "Water Me" and "Do Girls," which got the crowd moving — but they were constantly interrupted.
"Let's get very ignorant with the volume," he repeatedly told the sound guy as he alternated between disappearing from the stage for minutes at a time and encouraging women to climb up onstage for awkward and half-hearted crowd interaction sequences. He'd stop tracks 30 seconds in for a redo because he wasn't feeling it, or brag about his new Yeezy shoes before running offstage to go put them on.
It seems that London is having trouble living up to the Karl Lagerfeld-type aesthetic he espoused on his Vibes! album cover; in reality, he comes off as basic and seemingly out of his league. It's a shame, really, because there are things to like in the sound that London is championing. The crowd seemed to think so too, before slowly slipping out, well before the show had ended. To say that this was an odd show would be an understatement.