Words: Freya Bromley
It’s often said that for a recording artist to succeed they need to be able to do more than just sing, but on October 20th at the O2 Academy Newcastle, England, without gimmicks or routines Tom Odell proved that if that rule is true his talent as an expert pianist, vocalist, and lyricist will make him an extremely successful solo artist.
As in any excellent live performance, there’s an element that cannot be found on a recording, and Tom brought a level of rawness to the stage that could never be recreated on track. In interviews Tom has said his songs are like his children and he has no favourites; this equivalent affection was evident Sunday evening, with every performance seeing his absolute attention from beginning to end. At times it felt as if we, the audience, were intruding on an incredibly intimate moment between Tom and his emotions.
Tom opened with “Grow Old With Me” the title track to his debut album and it wasn’t long before the audience were serenading him with his own lyrics to the triumphal tune. By the end of the night Tom had managed to sustain a subdued atmosphere for the entirety of his performance and captivate everyone’s attention without having to resort to cheap gimmicks or remixes. His voice, lyrics and piano were enough to showcase his immense potential.
NME predicted that the 22 year old singer would command commercial success but warned that Odell’s “offensively dull piano pop” was “destined for Brits ubiquity.” Record-buyers, however, appear not to have been influenced by the scathing review as his debut album reached number 1 in the UK official chart.
He’s already the first male winner of the Brits’ Critics’ Choice Award, confirming NME’s inability to predict success when they see it. Lilly Allen, who discovered Tom and signed him to her label, tweeted to encourage her four million followers to buy his album and added: “for all the people asking who the NME is, it’s like this fanzine that people used to read in the 90s.”
I’m not often a fan of maudlin melancholy music but there is something extremely familiar in Tom’s work; he has the ability to say what most people would want to say to a loved one but doesn’t quite have the words. Odell’s songs are already being heralded as our generation’s soundtrack to proposals, first dances and first kisses.
Tom coupled his tracks with some covers and seamlessly blended his individual style with that of the Beatles to create a unique song that fit nicely in the midst of his set. His boot hits the floor for a jazzy deconstruction of “Get Back” before he imitated a young Jagger with “I Just Want To Make Love To You.”
With the media’s cries of ‘corporate puppet’ I hope that, having seen him in what will probably be his purest stage, he remains his raw and intense self and is not harnessed in a more commercial direction after the meteoric success of his first album.