Converse Gigs @ 100 Club, London, December 5
The 100 Club wears its heritage on its sleeve. The walls are plastered with photos of blues pioneers, punk legends and, er, The Hives. It’s a nook for stars on their way up and Toddla T – Thomas Bell to the taxman – is climbing that pole.
For the past two years, T’s performed an impressive manoeuvre that has seen him go from poster boy for Sheffield’s flagging UK bassline scene, to a big-name Radio 1 DJ with a b-line in producing massive pop albums. This past 12 months have seen him take his dancehall roadshow from Washington to Croatia, start work on a third album, and cap it all off by siring a child with his Radio 1 co-worker Annie Mac.
Mac’s here tonight but keeping out of trouble as Roses Gabor offers gnarly support, spitting old-skool rhymes in alarmingly laddered tights and flashing the bling like Roxanne Shanté in cryogenic limbo from the ’80s. It’s a raw, engaging start, but Toddla T blows all that away with a video intro from fellow Sheffield folk hero Jarvis Cocker.
“Toddla T – who is he?” drawls Cocker, as laconic as he’s contractually obliged to be. Suddenly T’s bopping behind the decks, looking like Example in a wind tunnel. His shtick’s all techno dub – fiery, relentless and fun. Favourites such as ‘Cherry Picking’ are chucked away early on like so much deep cut detritus. MCs Serocee and DRS vibe off each other to whip up the party.
A guest on last year’s ‘Watch Me Dance’, ’90s Britsoul star Shola Ama has become a bit of a muse to T and she rattles through her own hits ‘You Might Need Somebody’ and ‘Taboo’ as well as her Toddla collaboration ‘Take Me Back’. Together they threaten to exhume UK garage in 2013. That might not even be a bad thing.
There are cheeky throwaways to keep the joint jumping, with DRS and Serocee freestyling over Sean Paul’s ‘Gimme The Light’ and The Specials’ ‘Ghost Town’. But the control remains entirely in T’s hands. He mugs and waves, ostentatiously twisting fictional knobs and pulls in the young, the old, the bearded and the bobble-hatted.
For years, Toddla T has been bringing the carnival to the people. Tonight he proves he’s deserving of a framed snap behind the bar.