Tom Odell a BRIT Award winning singer-songwriter. Described by many as one of the UK’s greatest pianists, he’s headlined festivals, taken home many accolades and has really gone out of his way to make people fall in love with him through his beautiful lyrics and his gorgeous liveability.
Tonight will be the third time I’ve seen Tom live, and he has already set the bar for tonight, as the first time I saw him was when he headlined Nottingham’s Splendour Festival in 2014 alongside Happy Mondays, where it was one of the greatest live performances I’d ever seen at the time, but then I saw him again last October at Rough Trade in Nottingham, where his raw acoustic performance was one of my favourite sets I saw last year, despite me not loving his fourth studio album, “monsters”. He has shown me he is capable of performing live, despite not being a fan of some of his material, and so I hope tonight, he brings that same love and energy to his set at Rock City.
Before we go any further, I’d like to give a massive shout out to Rae Morris, who absolutely killed her support slot tonight. Her PR haven’t requested this section from us, this is all on me. I’ve been a fan of Rae since she started collaborating with Bombay Bicycle Club, including on “Luna”, one of my all-time favourite songs, and her 2015 debut album “Unguarded” is completely sublime. This is the first time I saw her perform a full set and it was spell-bounding and proves that she’s one of the most underrated British artists out there. Bring on Album #3!
The atmosphere in the 2000 strong capacity venue is magical even before Tom comes on stage, with the crowd of a varied age (even an 80-something year old stood near me) chanting his name minutes before he comes onto the stage. By the time he comes on, his fans are even more excited than they were before. With this show, there was no introduction, no music for Tom to come onto, he just comes onto the stage on his own with the crowd screaming, as he sits in front of the piano on his own to perform “numb” from his questionable fourth studio album “monsters”, but this is just an acoustic performance, adding a whole new layer to the song. This I thought was an incredibly bold decision to open with, especially with how slow it was, but with the peaceful crowd’s eyes instantly drawn to Odell, it’s a risk that very much paid off. And just as we thought that was the end of the song, out of nowhere, there’s an explosion of light as the band suddenly appear and the song fully gets going for the final few bars, which very much made me jump, and with it showing the beautifully sophisticated stage design and the band’s brilliant chemistry, it made for a fantastic opening, but it didn’t end there, as immediately after performing the song, without the chance for the “wrong” crowd to applaud (see what I did there??), we go straight into “Can’t Pretend”, and the whole crowd was singing along, it was fantastic. This performance in particular showed off the sensational stage and lighting design, as well as Odell’s vocals and showmanship, despite being by his piano the whole time. This whole performance was met with an insane amount of applause, which was great to see.
“Sparrow” then plays, which provokes all of the Rock City crowd to clap without any hints from any of the band (the sign of a great performance right there) and those sensational vocals from Tom continue, with the crowd quiet and in awe of what they’re witnessing. At this point, the whole show is non-stop, and I love that. This particular performance is showcasing the very best of Odell’s remarkable lyrics as well as the chemistry between him and the band being absolutely sensational, with the live backing vocals being some of the best I’ve heard in many years by any artist. At the end of the performance, the crowd scream incredibly loudly, provoking Tom to begin his performance of “Daddy”, in which I’m sure the people in the crowd have called Tom that at some point. Moving swiftly on… before the performance, we hear what sounds like a car horn sampled and mixed to sound different and its weirdly beautiful, but this plays throughout as we hear a stripped back version of the song, and it’s beautiful to listen to, as we get a whole new take on the song. The band come in 30 seconds before the end as we hear a fantastic guitar solo and it’s brilliant. My one critique of this particular performance is that I wish that section was longer because it was so good.
The second Tom played the opening chords of “Heal”, the crowd exploded in excitement, especially as this has recently been trending on TikTok. Everyone was screaming the lyrics, getting their phones out to record it, it was a gorgeous live performance with some brilliant live chemistry, excellent vocals and it was beautiful to be in the moment for this one. Tom then finally addressed the crowd for the first time, in which they responded with cheers, and even someone screaming “you’re so fit!”. He then goes on to say that the next song he’s going to do he’s only performed once before, and that he’s going to be joining his guitarist, Max Calvin by playing the guitar for it (I was just as surprised as everyone else), and he played “tears that never dry” from the new album, and everyone was singing along, and it was great to see Tom come out of his comfort zone too, but for me, at the time, I didn’t really know whether I liked it or not. I didn’t like the song on the album, and yes it was performed better than the recorded version, but it wasn’t something that I didn’t think worked on this occasion, though it was nice to listen to either way and I commend Tom for taking a risk and trying something different.
Tom then covered Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colours”, who no one has done justice to since Anna Kendrick and Justin Timberlake did in the 2016 Dreamworks Animation, Trolls… (Sorry, I just had to see if I could get away with saying that, that was a disaster!), but this was beautiful and fitted the show incredibly well. The multicoloured spotlight was fitting and added to the simple but effective lighting design, and Tom did a great job covering this (and for someone who doesn’t like covers, that’s saying something…). Moving onto a gorgeous rendition of “don’t be afraid of the dark”, where the whole crowd was singing along to every single lyric, Tom’s lyrics were in focus and it was a gorgeous performance.
We’re halfway through the set now, and Tom surprises all of us by giving us a brand new song called “The Best Day Of My Life”, and this one I was beyond excited to hear, and Mr. Odell didn’t disappoint, as I believe from listening to it the one time, it’s one of his best songs since the release of his debut album (which got zero stars from NME back in 2013 for a reason I still cannot understand). The track was beautifully written, showcasing the best of Odell’s songwriting ability once again, it was beautifully performed by everyone on stage, it was gorgeous. What was even more impressive is that some members of the crowd already knew the song by heart and were singing along with Tom, despite it not being out until this Friday. That must show that either Tom Odell has some serious stans and/or that the song really is that impressive. I’ll go with the latter. The energy continues with “Grow Old With Me”, which was beautiful from start to finish, from the acoustic sections at the beginning to the gigantic pompous ending with excellent band chemistry, it was fantastic and got a massive applause at the end.
The next track was “half as good as you”, and as much as I don’t like the song, the performance was great. It was an intimate experience and it got everyone listening and singing along. And then we move on to “Magnetised”, the most radio-friendly of Odell’s tracks and so unlike his usual sound, and so I was surprised when I saw this on the setlist before tonight’s show and was intrigued to see what direction he’d go with it, and we get a slowed-down track with a glorious country swing to it. It was fantastic, really showing off the stage design, especially with the shadows appearing on the back curtain, that was beautiful. This brilliant stage design carried on through “lose you again”, which was another great performance with the ending being spectacular. Going into “Hold Me”, it came to me how smooth the transitions were between songs through the set, and it was fantastic. Guitarist Max Calvin switched to acoustic guitar for this one and it was fantastic. I loved the softer version of the song the band originally went with, and then, Odell gets off his stool and gets the whole crowd to scream along to the lyrics which was fantastic in itself, and then he got back in his seat as the whole song goes incredibly heavy very fast, resulting in Tom standing on his piano taking in the massive round of applause from the crowd.
The very second Tom goes off stage, the entire crowd chant “Tom Odell” incredibly loudly, and when he got on stage, that continued and stopped when he counted to four to begin “fighting fire with fire”, which was the big highlight of the night for me. The atmosphere was electric, the crowd were loving it, the band chemistry was amazing, with great use of piano, drums, bass and guitar as well as flashing lights, it was an incredible performance. Tom then introduced his band, throws his stool across the stage and then plays a new version of “money”, making it more of a jazz number which worked so well in regards to its sound, complexity and sheer passion. It was fantastic to watch. He then does a second cover, this time of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing In The Dark”, and he kills it! The crowd are cheering, singing, and I even saw an umbrella in the air. The cover wasn’t as strong as “True Colours” earlier in the set, but it was fantastic either way. Tom and his band sounded like something you’d hear on an American talk show, but I don’t say that to be cruel, I say that because they really do give an atmosphere and are incredibly talented, and as are those guys, it was as if the band from Jimmy Kimmel Live! went rogue and I love it.
To finish off the set, Tom thanked his fans for coming down and said how much of an impact the pandemic had on them. The lights then turn to blue and yellow as he speaks about the situation happening in Ukraine, subtly agreeing with a fan who screamed “Putin’s a cunt” midway through his speech, saying he’s heartbroken by what’s happened and dedicated this final song to everyone struggling over there right now. This final song was “Another Love”, which got the biggest scream from the crowd, and the atmosphere here was beautiful, the audience screaming the words back to Tom and the band, the whole aesthetic was beautiful and a one that I loved.
Overall, Tom Odell was brilliant. His setlist was fantastic, his and his band’s live musical chemistry was sublime and there wasn’t a bad moment. However, looking back at the show as a whole, I’m not as excited about it as I have been after other shows I’ve been to this year, or his other shows, but that’s not to take away how great the performance was, it was fantastic, I just feel as though, looking back, he can do more, and I feel as though his fourth album “monsters” is partly responsible for that, but from the two songs I’ve heard from Album #5 so far, the next time I review Tom Odell, I guarantee it will be five stars.
- numb (monsters)
- Can’t Pretend (Long Way Down)
- Sparrow (Wrong Crowd)
- Daddy (Wrong Crowd)
- Heal (Long Way Down)
- tears that never dry (monsters)
- True Colours (Cyndi Lauper cover)
- don’t be afraid of the dark (monsters)
- The Best Day Of My Life (New Song)
- Grow Old With Me (Long Way Down)
- Half As Good As You (Jubilee Road)
- Magnetised (Wrong Crowd)
- lose you again (monsters)
- Hold Me (Long Way Down)
- fighting fire with fire (monsters)
- money (monsters)
- Dancing In The Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover)
- Another Love (Long Way Down)