12 Stone Toddler continued on their steadily upward trajectory with a sold-out show at The Haunt, Brighton, to launch third album, Idiolalia, released on local indie label Freshly Squeezed. They set the scene with a wonderful opening performance from Tankus The Henge singer, Jaz Deloreon. Jaz performed solo, accompanying himself on piano whilst standing askance, cutting a bit of a Buster Keaton-like figure in a three-piece check suit, as he led the crowd into a series of sing-a-longs. His set climaxed with a rendition of ‘Henge song, ‘You Can Do Anything’, sung back at him as he left the stage by the growing crowd. It takes some skill to get a room full of people singing a song many had never heard before, a feat Deloreon pulled off with ease, expertly warming the crowd and stripping them of any lingering inhibitions.
Next Toddler strode out on stage to the delighted coos of a perfectly primed audience, storming in with a fierce performance of ‘Come Back’, the first track from their debut album. It always seemed a little ironic that a band would launch their career with such a song, but like a fine wine or cheese it grows ever more potent with age. There was never really any doubt that the crowd would get behind them tonight. Many old faces filling the room would support this band returning to stage on pure nostalgia alone, new album, or not. Still, I don’t think anyone was expecting what we got tonight: quite possibly the most epic 12 Stone Toddler performance of all time!
For starters the guys arrived early to stage, just after 8:30pm, chomping at the bit to get stuck in to what would turn out to be an 18 song set. An hour-and-a-half of vintage Toddler, drawing from all three of their albums with a nice smattering of rarities and B-sides thrown in. Frontman Chris Otero was in fine voice, and on fine form. He only struggled to resist his own minimal banter rule, clearly wanting to make the most of their time, sticking within The Haunt’s famously strict curfew. They wasted no time getting into IDIOLALIA territory, with three new tracks following ‘Come Back’s opening salvo. ‘My Machine’, came in strong, while ‘Phirana’, stepped things up a gear, with surf-tinged guitars and big heavy melodies. ‘Mirrorball’ fired a few more shots across the brow, morphing into something ever more monstrous live, as it grows from smooth to beastly across four minutes. At this point Otero expressed relief, that the new material was going down well with the crowd, though he should never have doubted it.
When they played at the Green Door Store last year, testing the water for this renewed incarnation, they avoided their second album, Scheming, entirely, so it was nice to see a few tracks dusted off for tonight. The secret track, ‘Pitch Black’, was a cool addition for the devotees, and ‘Death In The Zoo’s dub influenced tones perfectly echoed the more reggae flavoured tracks on the new album, like the beautifully melodic ‘Heavy Sleeper’ and, of course, the excellent ‘Heaven Was Closed’, the second A on their recent double-A-side single. I found the sped-up version of title track ‘Scheming’ a little underwhelming, a nice idea for a rework that possibly needs a little more time in the oven. In contrast the first encore track, ‘Drowning A Witch’ sounded absolutely killer, showcasing my favourite dirty keyboard sound of all time.
Talking about those dirty keyboards, it has to be said Ben Jones was in outrageously good form, flinging out insane Moog solos left, right and centre. We even got a classic Jones lead vocal, with a genius and very welcome version of ‘Ballonatics’ midway through the show. With such an amazing show its a struggle to mention every highlight, but kudos has to be given to new additions Helen Durden and Robin O’Keefe, on guitar and drums respectively. Their contributions have really helped Toddler to raise the bar with this return – I’m particularly loving the extra backing vocals, although I’d like to have seen the sound-guy crank the volume a little in that department!
My highlight of the whole night came as a bit of a surprise, it wasn’t any of the revisited Scheming tracks, or a new Idiolalia gem, even though there were plenty of these. It wasn’t even a classic from Does It Scare You?, as great as it was to hear and move to tracks like, ‘Candles On The Cake’, ‘Tragicomedy’, or ‘The Rabbit’. The song that grabbed me most was a little known relic from the brief in-between days of Toddler sideshow MynieMoe. ‘Rataplan’ sneaked into their three song encore and has spent the rest of the week stuck in my head. It’s a testament to the songwriting prowess of Otero and Jones that their diamonds are scattered so wide and plentifully throughout their releases. Like those diamonds this show will live long in the memory for the capactiy crowd. I don’t think I’ll be alone in eagerly watching out for what the band do next!