Show Review: Lady Sovereign, Hollywood Holt at Lee’s Palace

Lady Sovereign Live in Toronto By: Peter Skrzypczak
May 07, 2009

Lady Sovereign has always intrigued me, as much with her witty and humorous songs as with the novelty of a white, female rapper from London who uses British slang and chastises her countrymen for saying ‘cookies’ instead of ‘biscuits.’

The wee MC kicked off her North American tour with a show at Lee’s Palace on May 1st.  Lady Sovereign and opener Hollywood Holt filled the room with a steady stream of rhymes and enough bass to literally make my nose jiggle.
Chicago-born Hollywood warmed up the audience with his over-the-top energy and new cuts from his upcoming album.  Holt bounded onto the stage as DJ Million Dollar Mano cut loose beats that were more dance than rap.  He unleashed a shirtless set covering the standard gamut of rap themes – clothes, money and his general awesomeness. 

The audience quickly started feeding off his energy, and before long heads were bobbing and arms flying.  As his set drew to a close, more people began pouring onto the warped wooden floor, eagerly awaiting the arrival of SOV. 

Her DJ appeared on stage and started pumping hype tracks, albeit with the levels still being adjusted from the mixing board, her hands sometimes moved with no accompanying sounds.  It wasn’t long before Ess-Oh-Vee (born Louise Harman) started teasing the crowd, sticking her hands out from behind the black curtain at stage left.  The flick of a wrist, and then a foaming beer, and then a toothbrush, got the audience cheering.

When she did emerge to a raucous welcome, SOV dove into the opening track off her new album Jigsaw, called “Let’s be Mates,” followed by “Random” from her first album, Public Warning.  Perhaps still needing a bit of a warm-up, her voice sounded a little harsh through the first few songs.  But as the set went on, Lady Sovereign appeared to loosen up – with the help of a few mainlined beers – and the show really fell into a groove. 

There was the obligatory shot at Def Jam, her former label, something about “men in suits spending your money.”  As she reasoned, tweaking her own catchphrase, “I’m the biggest midget with the smallest budget in the game.”  She did use a live drummer, who I reckon must cost less than the bassist she used to tour with.  He did an admirable job filling out the electronic sound with some live beats; however he fell off tempo several times during fills.

With genuine apprehension, she sang instead of rapped the verses from the title track off Jigsaw.   She introduced the song as being “about an ex-girlfriend,” to loud cheers from the audience.  SOV kept shaking her head, but in all fairness, it sounded just fine to me.

Her biggest hit “Love Me or Hate Me” got dozens of middle-fingers flying at the appropriate moments, and “I Got you Dancing” had the crowd energized and moving.  By now the throng had jockeyed closer to the stage and the intimate setting of Lee’s allowed for some hilarious exchanges between SOV and the crowd, including vodka pouring freely onto the first row, and a green tie grabbed off a fan’s head likened to a female lizard’s naughty bits.
Lady Sovereign Lee's Palace
Lady Sovereign finished the night with an ‘encore’ barely two minutes after leaving the stage.  “Student Union” felt a little flat, as it’s not the strongest track from Jigsaw.  Nevertheless, she finished with the crunching “Public Warning,” briefly turning the floor into a mosh pit, much to her delight. 

If there’s anyone who doubts a five-foot-tall rapper can command the attention and adoration of a crowd, then I highly suggest checking out Lady Sovereign next time she’s in town.  While I was initially intrigued by the novelty of SOV, after Friday’s show, I wholeheartedly agree she still is the biggest midget in the game.


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