ost people would brand Tom Odell as that blonde-haired, angel-faced yodeller with pretty cool piano skills and at least one single they associate him with – most likely ‘Another Love’ or ‘Magnetised’. I personally knew several of his songs, and brought an avid fan in the form of my friend along with me, so we were highly appreciative of the chance to see him perform. However, after an incredible night, I’d recommend him not to just major fans, but pretty much anyone. Take it this way, my friend and I almost had to embark on an all-night adventure in Plymouth with no place to stay but a 24-hour Subway, but it would’ve definitely been worth it to see him.
To explain, at the very last minute we discovered of the non-existence of trains back to Exeter between 10pm and the fresh hour of 7am, and it had well and truly got to the point of calculating cheap things to do on our all-night adventure in a strange new city. Luckily we found a friend’s house to crash at, and from there our excitement could truly begin. After Google Maps led us through some sketchy back alleys, we reached the distinguishable architecture of Plymouth Pavilions, which turned out to have been basically in front of us the entire time. On entering, we prepared for what we expected to be an unbearably long wait for Tom Odell, but luckily were proven wrong by the sets of the two pretty impressive supporting acts.
Johnny Lloyd was first to perform, a great artist who successfully kick-started the night, creating a buzzing atmosphere with some unique indie-rock tracks. ‘Pilgrims’ and ‘Happy Humans’ particularly stood out with their dreamy, feel-good tones. Having been a fan of his indie-alternative rock band, Tribes, before their split in 2013, it was interesting to see how Lloyd had progressed as a solo act. He definitely didn’t disappoint; as a talented singer assisted by a great band, he manipulated the live versions of his otherwise light-hearted tracks to add a more grungy, rocky vibe – think of a slightly edgier version of The Kooks or Mystery Jets. All in all, it was a laid-back and enjoyable performance which got everyone’s spirits up for the rest of the night.
Up next was ‘Rag’n’Bone Man’, another act we weren’t too familiar with, but the rest of the crowd definitely was, with cheers erupting before he even came on stage. He didn’t seem like someone you’d expect to support Tom Odell – with his various tattoos, almighty beard and almost rough demeanour, I had no idea what to expect. However, as he began to sing – a mixed genre of pop-rock songs with some electro and hip-hop thrown in (essentially, a bit of everything) – with powerful, bluesy vocals, I knew we were in for a unique show. His confidence and passion was captivating while singing, which contrasted his quieter yet charming nature as he chatted between songs; shyly announcing the debut performance of his song ‘Grace’, a beautiful and personal track. Other highlights for me included his most famous song, ‘Human’, as well as other upbeat tunes ‘Hell Yeah’ and ‘Skin’. These songs hyped up the audience before Tom Odell made his appearance.
And what an appearance it was. After a successful debut album in 2013, a BRIT award under his belt, and his second studio album released this year, Wrong Crowd, it’s safe to say Tom Odell’s come far from being a shy 13-year-old writing his own songs in secret to avoid being seen as “uncool”. Only having seen his live performances via the Live Lounge sessions on YouTube, my imagination didn’t stray too far from a pleasant acoustic evening – which of course wasn’t a bad thing in itself – but this gig kicked any of these presumptions to the kerb. The electric crowd atmosphere, a dynamic and often surprising set, and his infectious enthusiasm are all simply a few of the main reasons that Odell has secured his spot in the industry, not only as an incontestably talented young musician, but also as a performer.
He began with ‘Still Getting Used to Being On My Own’, a great tune accompanied by dazzling visual effects created by flashing beam lights that rhythmically coordinated with intense piano solos. Another early song, ‘Can’t Pretend’ was a strong favourite – the brilliant, almost ominous hues of crimson filling the stage created an electrifying atmosphere for one of his rockier songs. Often at the end of a song there would be an interesting turn of events in which he’d put a creative spin on the ending, for example his take on ‘Hold Me’ took us completely by surprise. Often having heard the delicate acoustic version, it was a shock to hear it with an almost heavy-metal guitar riff.
His tactics mostly involved jumping onto his piano and busting out some surprisingly charming daD-DanCING
This was contrasted by quieter ballads such as ‘Somehow’, ‘Constellations’ and the beginning of ‘Another Love’, where the direct spotlight that focused on nothing but Odell and his piano often forced the audience to feel as though nobody else existed. ‘Constellations’ was no doubt one of the most enchanting acoustic performances. Odell got the entire audience involved in a refreshing variety of ways; but specifically, in ‘Constellations’, by asking everyone to close their eyes and picture a pub scene with a loved one sat in front of you, to encapsulate the feeling which inspired him to write the track. The added comment of letting us know that “that person could be me, if you wanted” was simply a bonus. No question about it, Tom.
Aside from that, his tactics mostly involved jumping onto his piano and busting out some surprisingly charming dad-dancing, either within songs or intervals, starting off a very unexpected mini-rave at the end of the set by announcing “if it’s the only moment – in your day, your week, your month – where you go fucking crazy, let it be now.” Followed by some intense moments of trippy strobe lighting and heavy beats reverberating throughout the room, my friend and I were astounded by the fact that this was probably the closest thing to a mosh-pit (without the brutality), and it was happening right here with Tom Odell.
My friend commented on how lyrically, despite his songs not being incredibly complex, their genius comes from their honesty and simplicity, transmitting his personal experience in a way relatable to many in the audience. The incredibly diverse audience proved that Odell’s increasing popularity had drawn attention from not just fangirls, but people young and old. Think families, friends, children, couples, young excited university students with free press passes… it was one of the most all-inclusive, friendly atmospheres I’d experienced at a gig.
Upon leaving the concert, we were left wondering whether this experimental gig had hinted at the beginnings of a new direction for Odell, or just the proof that he was able to escape the limited stereotype of an acoustic singer-songwriter. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.