When somebody told me just before the gig about NME’s 0/10 rating of Tom Odell’s first album, Long Way Down, I was shocked. Now I’m standing inside Brixton Academy, according to my companion “twice as packed as the last gig I came to here”, hearing what sounds like a million ladies (and a few thousand men, too) screaming at the top of their lungs, because the lights are down hailing Odell’s imminent entrance. Sorry NME, but it seems like he’s off to a 10/10 start…
I’ve always said to my friends that I like Odell on record, but am unsure about his voice live – by the second song I’m totally won over and if I’d brought a hat with me, I’d gladly be eating it – make no mistake that the frailty and crackle in his vocal delivery is no accident; these are his devices, and they serve to wow the crowd even more as he soars over the top of my favourite, ‘Can’t Pretend’, with belter notes that make me want to quit music and give up everything. Despite his self-professed Elton John influence, Tom surpasses the role of “songwriter who sits at a piano” song after song with both big rock moments, and immediately intimate and quiet ones where the crackle of his falsetto feels like burnt honey.
He’s not much of a talker, but honestly it doesn’t feel like a pretentious artist thing – much rather a humble one – the few times he does speak are either to thank the crowd for coming, or to dedicate a song, once to his friend/drummer with the broken shoulder, and once to Donald Trump – more on that in a moment…
While on record, Wrong Crowd feels quite different to Long Way Down, Odell makes sense of this gap live with immense amounts of percussion and multi-talented musicians providing the haunting backing vocals that fans have come to know and love across both albums, and some songs – like ‘Hold Me’ – sound better in real life than through my headphones. Biggest reactions of the night come from first album hits though, with a volume of audience sing-along to ‘Another Love’ I’ve only ever experienced with anthems like ‘Hey Jude’ and Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ – 10/10 for that one, Tom (*cough, NME*).
Quickly back to dedications: to the thrill of both Hilary Clinton and John Lewis Christmas Ad fans alike, Odell explains “I don’t do this song very often, but I’m gonna dedicate ‘Real Love’ to that C*** Donald Trump… I don’t care if you’re the president, you’re not president of Brixton right now.” Lovely stuff.
Four encore tunes and a confetti canon or two later, I can thoroughly recommend Tom Odell as a treat night out – it’s much more energetic, much more heartfelt and much more uplifting than I thought it might be. And judging by the fact that almost nobody is fleeing to beat the mass exit before the last number, you seem to have found your right crowd, Mr Odell.