Songs alone won’t get you to the masses; you also need presence. Central Cee is quite present when viewed through a screen. His gorgeous smile, wavy hair, and body-covering tattoos all sparkle through the screen, yet the closer you get to him, the less bright he appears.
On Friday night at Rolling Loud at Ontario Place, Central Cee’s DJ performs some of the best crowd work of the entire set while he waits. With “Clash” by Dave, “Dior” by Pop Smoke, and “Body” by fellow Londoner Tion Wayne, he warms up the crowd. Every tune concludes with a cheer for Central Cee as the audience knows all the words.
After “Day in the Life’s” initial few seconds, Central A clamour greets Cee as she emerges wearing a Tracy McGrady Raptors shirzee, sunglasses, and a cap on its side. The audience begins to rap along with him after thirty seconds. The crowd is energised by the hook, yet Cee doesn’t do much to add fuel to the fire.
The fact that U.K. drill is made even more visceral by the 808s’ crushing bass and slide is its finest feature. The crowd is buzzed by the sliding 808s of “Tension,” “Little Bit of This,” and “Retail Therapy,” yet rather of igniting the crowd, the speaker’s buzz strikes listeners like a tuning fork.
“Day in the Life” was used to energise the crowd, but moving right into deeper cuts revealed confusion. Central Cee is considered to be a key crossover prospect for U.K. drill, but at a festival, that doesn’t happen by surfacing songs from further back in the discography.
It rarely occurs to Central Cee to interact with the large throng that had assembled for his performance that evening. It’s a performance, but only in the sense that you’re not listening to the music through a pair of headphones in your bedroom, but instead are actively gesturing or waving while one hand is on the mic. Between “Day in the Life” and “Tension,” Cee only says a few times, “Toronto Rolling Louse, this is far overdue.” Cee’s performance is a disappointment.
Central Cee is a unique artist, and his act is unique as well. Cee is cut off from his massive crowd because he is just concerned with rapping his rhymes.
The effervescent quality of the beginnings of songs fades like flames in the wind as he paces the stage while rapping his words.