London energizes audience

Theophilus London performed Sunday at the El Rey Theatre in Los Angeles, and the Brooklyn-based singer, known for his hit “I Stand Alone,” led his fans on a two-hour tour through his material, all while displaying constant energy and bravado.

Modern hip-hop · Newcomer Theophilus London gets the crowd excited with his frenetic energy, lively music and charismatic posse. - Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Records

The crowd seemed restless as the minutes crawled onward. The opening act, K. Flay, a talented rapper, producer and drummer, showcased her infectious hooks and impressive  lyrical flow for a 45-minute set that impressed the crowd. After the young artist finished, the long delay ensued.

When the show finally began, it wasn’t London who came to the stage first. Instead, it was his hype-man who appeared, running across the stage and grabbing the microphone from the introducer in an attempt to excite the crowd before the star of the show came on.

When the main act did arrive, London exhibited what can only be described as utter confidence, his every move dripping with self-assuredness.

Between standing on the edge of the stage and dancing energetically throughout the performance, London also pulled out some quirky, hilarious moves, including what can only be called a 21st-century guitarist Chuck Berry duckwalk, jumping backwards across the stage on one leg, making the crowd roar with approval simultaneously.

As London continued through his set, the arrangement of his band changed. When he first began in his performance, it was London and his hype-man, a current interpretation of something reminiscent of P. Diddy’s contributions to Biggie Smalls’ tracks. In this case, London’s hype-man frantically interjected with emphasis on select words from London’s lyrics, amping up the energy in the venue.

Afterward, a guitarist and bassist joined London and his hype-man on stage and played a couple songs, injecting a more rock feel to the concert in the process. Even more surprising, London invited a girl — chosen by his hype-man of course — onto the stage and serenaded her with a completely new track as she danced around him, obviously happy to be on the stage.

She didn’t seem to want to leave after the song was over, but the fast pace of the show meant she was quickly helped off.

London’s concert continued on with even more surprises in store for the audience. After the girl was sent off the stage, the guitarist and bassist put down their instruments. Two more friends joined them and the hype-man on the stage.

This left London singing and rapping, five friends dancing and interacting with the crowd, a venerable party occurring around them. Unfortunately, this riotous behavior proved distracting, as some of the things London’s crew was doing were not really connected to what London himself was doing. This lack of synchronicity included two stage dives — one successful and one mishap involving a crewmember being awkwardly dropped to the ground.

At one point, London left the stage, merely leaving his five friends dancing to the beat of the song as the crowd wondered what was going on. London remained out of view for a couple minutes, with some of his crewmembers even commenting into the microphone as the beat continued.

Then, like magic, London reemerged with a new hat and jacket, as energetic as ever.

Finally, after this extended run-through his new material, London got to his biggest hit, “I Stand Alone.” A number about individuality and finding one’s way, the song shows off a heavy OutKast-like influence, dynamic in its instrumentation and undoubtedly catchy.

It was enthralling to see London suddenly stop his constant motion around the stage when he reached the chorus. Standing as still as possible, grasping his until-then-unused microphone stand and singing and rapping for his crowd, London was in command of the stage.

The wait was worth it — the impatient crowd welcomed London in earnest when he finally arrived on stage and was treated to exactly what it expected from a frenetic, diverse artist like London, who forwent any real organization in his show in exchange for the indefatigable energy he brought to the El Rey audience.