Ivor Novello award-winning singer, songwriter and pianist Tom Odell is back. Following a whirlwind catapult into the music world over 2012 and 2013, with landmark milestones including a memorable Later… with Jools Holland performance, winning the Critics’ Choice Award at the BRITs, reaching number one with his debut album Long Way Down and, of course, that 2014 Songwriter of the Year Ivor Novello award, his star status seemed sealed.
Snippets of new music emerged in 2014 including Odell’s cover of The Beatles’ Real Love, which was used for that year’s John Lewis Christmas television ad, but this year sees his return to form with sophomore LP Wrong Crowd being released in June, with its lead single of the same name out this month. To road-test the new material ahead of the album’s release, he kicked off an eight-date headline tour, playing intimate venues across six European and two US cities with his sole UK show at London’s Islington Assembly Hall.
Kicking off proceedings with the longest-titled song from Wrong Crowd, Still Getting Used To Being On My Own, the 25-year-old appeared on the North London stage donning a sharp suit, taking up position behind a black baby grand piano and encased in the shadows that would shroud his face from view for the entirety of his 70-minute set. Flanked by a bassist to his left and guitarist to his right, along with dual drum kits and a female backing singer to the rear, the sound certainly promised to be bigger this time around.
Screams erupted from the audience as the first few bars of 2013 single I Know rang out followed by Odell’s roar as drums and bass kicked in. New album title track Wrong Crowd was aired next, the most familiar of the new material garnering a warm reception from the crowd as its thumping beat played out over the pleasing piano intro, the song ending with a whistle-along outro. In a departure from his piano-led style, new track Concrete had the Chichester-native taking up position away from his piano, relying on Max Clilverd’s slow-blues guitar licks to sway along to, enticing screams from the female audience contingent.
“Welcome” he said, addressing the crowd for the first time. “I’ve been working on this album for a long time and it feels fucking great to be back tonight” he continued. “We’re playing a lot of the songs from Wrong Crowd, I hope you like them” he said before launching into solo piano ballad Constellations. Heavy drumming kicked off Daddy and set the tone of this heavier cut from the new album, the crowd responding in-kind, particularly with Clilverd’s epic guitar solo closing the tune in dramatic fashion.
An operatic piano opening of Can’t Pretend seemed someone reminiscent of a Muse tune, the debut album track slowly making its way to crescendo, the pent-up tension in both Odell and his crowd erupting with the familiar loud tune but leaving the 25-year-old still chained to his piano.
Jealousy is a jazz-influenced piano tune which would easily be at home in a 1920’s-themed speakeasy or outdoor summer picnic festival, but seemed to extinguish the fire Can’t Pretend had set in the crowd. A seemingly new piano melody led into hit single Another Love, the pang of recognition inducing screams and subsequent singing-along from the 800-strong crowd as the downbeat tune re-invigorated the audience.
“Thank you for being very, very, very nice” the pianoman said to his audience before launching into the main set-closer, humble sentiments from a man who had been cued up to open for the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park before he was forced to pull out due to illness. A slow piano-led introduction led into the dance-influenced second cut from the sophomore release, Magnetised, the live rendition re-worked slightly to use the heavy, dual-drum setup to work the tune’s rhythm magic alongside Odell’s baby grand piano.
Odell returned to the stage for Long Way Down single Grow Old With Me ahead of set-closer Somehow, the new song slowing things down before bursting back into loud life to close out the night.
While lead single Wrong Crowd certainly pushes Odell’s boundaries, much of the new material seemed to fall short both in terms of sonic dynamism and its impact on the crowd, the impact somewhat compounded by Odell being chained to his piano. Hopefully, as with Magnetised, the recorded versions of these new songs add further dimensions which can translate to his live show in future.
Odell plays shows in Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Zurich, Milan New York and LA over April and May before hitting up the European festival scene with stops at Nova Rock, Pinkpop, Pukkelpop and Hurricane festivals alongside his T In The Park appearance in July. Wrong Crowd is released on 10th June.
Watch the video for Wrong Crowd cut Magnetised here:
Live review of Tom Odell @ Islington Assembly Hall by Kalpesh Patel on 20th April 2016.
Kalpesh has more music photography up on his flickr stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate