Water Us & We Will Grow

  • Photo Mattha Busby

  • Photo Mattha Busby

Good vibes permeated throughout the Belmont on this crisp February night. The Saint-Laurent boul. venue provided the backdrop for the 5th stop on genre-bending music artist Theophilus London’s Vibes tour, eponymously named after his second studio album.

Interestingly enough, his project was executive-produced by Kanye West. Its association to Kanye explains, at least in part, the innovative and stylistically heterogeneous nature of the Vibes album. But more so, it is a testament to London’s refusal to conform to the norms of his genre of music and his desire to not limit the scope of what he can accomplish creatively as someone who is sometimes simply qualified as a rapper.

His album succeeds in that regard, and the Theophilus London fans in attendance were hoping that vision would translate on stage. However, before they could watch London show off the results of the higher plane of consciousness he’s claimed to have reached through a drug-filled journey of artistic expression (something he alluded to during his performance), fans had to first take a moment to also appreciate a more quintessential (yet also different in its own right) approach to the genre that Theophilus technically inhabits. That came in the form of “Dad”.

Rapper Father was tapped as the opening act for this tour. The Georgia artist is considered one of the hottest rappers representing the “New Atlanta” sound along with artists like ILoveMakonnen, Key!, Young Thug and the Migos.

Joined on stage by a hype man that could pass for his doppelganger, he performed his most known songs such as “YoungHotEbony”, “Spoil You Rotten” (for which a video was released just a few days prior) and current street hit “Look At Wrist” (which features Makonnen and Key!), as well as some newer music from upcoming projects. Although his set was shortened due to having started significantly later than it was intended, Father made up for it with a charismatic performance throughout his time. The amuse-bouche was received very well by the crowd and after a brief intermission it was time for the main.

With a cup of Tim Hortons tea in hand and equipped with, as he put it, “like 7 different shirts on because it’s so f****ng cold” he casually graced the stage to thunderous applause from the public. Once he and his live band got settled in and started performing “Water Me” (the opening track to Vibes), the atmosphere changed drastically. It became about grooving. It became about “vibing”.

London led the audience through an extended repetition of the song’s simple yet abstract chorus “Water me and I will grow”, while repeatedly encouraging more energy from them. It was as if he refused to carry on until the crowd showed him a level of enthusiasm and participation that would justify the level of energy he promised to deliver throughout his 90-minute set.

It eventually was to his satisfaction, and all of a sudden something happened. He started to deliver on that promise, giving the energy he received back. His renditions of even his tamest songs were so eclectic that it invigorated the crowd.

Although he did take the time to perform “Rio” and “Flying Overseas”, the large majority of the songs played were off of the Vibes album, with the more notable ones being his performances of “Neu Law”, “Heartbreaker”, “Do Girls”, the album’s lead single “Tribe” and the Kanye-assisted “Can’t Stop” (much to the delight of all in attendance).

The album played very well live and that was, in part, due to the live instrumentation. There was a sensuality to the rhythms that the band were playing, a notion that was there from the beginning of the set as “Water Me” speaks about how happiness comes from the power of love (and to a certain degree, women). That idea is reinforced throughout a good portion of his songs, which might also explain why he chose to start his tour so close to the “Lovers’ Holiday” (pun intended, referencing the title of his mixtape series).

The overall show wasn’t without its flaws, however. Theophilus seemed to have very specific and publicly vocalized lighting requests for each song and he never seemed to be satisfied by what he got. He also missed the presence of a DJ, which resulted in him having to make his way to the MacBook in the corner every time he was going to start a new song.

That detracted from the overall feel of the set, especially when he was visibly struggling to find a specific song on his list of tracks, but he made up for it with his Kanye West stories (whom he is actual friends with) and his slander of rapper Tyga.

“I date girls that are 19 and I date girls that are 36 because I’m free”, he said. “But not 17. I ain’t on no Tyga s**t. You’re a b***h n***a for that.” That line drew raucous laughter from the crowd.

London ended the show in full circle. He brought out Father for two encores of “Look at Wrist”. The first incited a crowd surf from London and it showed that even though he is very “out there” musically, that he still has a love for rap music. For him, it isn’t about the genres. It’s about the vibes, and they were definitely good vibes.

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