LIVE: Theophilus London, Club Soda, Montreal Jazz Festival

Theophilus London is almost there.

He’s found his lane. He has the swagger and the stage presence. He has all the things capable of being a good artist in my book. But he’s not there yet.

His stage show to a packed Montreal crowd shows that there is work to be done. Yes, London was rocking a band but a debate raged in the press room the next day on if said band were actually playing their instruments. Yes, he wants to evoke Marvin, Michael and those that have come before him, but unfortunately London has yet to master the art of working a stage, sometimes leaving before a his song even finished.

But you know what? The kids don’t care.

As a 30 year old man I was probably the oldest person in Montreal’s Club Soda by about 10 years it seemed. And given that the drinking age is 18 here, a Theophilus London show to a room full of drunk kids is almost equivalent to Michael Jackson moonwalking at the  Motown 25th Anniversary Show in ’86 to the Generation Y set.

When London did bring it, he showed his greatness. His debut album—a mix of indie rock, 80s electro and a little bit of hip-hop–fits him to a tee. And you know what? The songs sound good live, especially the rather powerful single “Last Name London,” which got the crowd going thanks to its new found airplay on MTV.

On stage, London does a great job of mixing hip-hop bravado with the mysteriousness of The Cure’s Robert Smith. All throughout the day London (standoffish sometimes in interviews and intimidating with his 6 foot 4 inch frame) carried himself less like a rap dude and more like a rock star. There is a lot of Bowie Mick Jagger in his stance, with a dose of Kanye.

But what does the future hold for London? Obviously the dude is on to something and it’s quite clear that the kids like him. His “emo-hop” counterpart Kid Cudi is doing extremely well and things look promising that London will meet or surpass his success.

Having that said, I don’t think I can become a fan of London until he realizes his truest potential. Until he can rock a live show like the best of them his tunes will stay on my iPod and not on my live list.