TOM ODELL / O2 ACADEMY, LEEDS

A complete “not-what-I-expected” extravaganza of jumping around, mass participation and cheering… no not the US presidential election, an evening with Tom Odell at Leeds O2!

As a first album fanboy I walked in to the renovated church building on a cold Tuesday evening expecting a night of lighter-waving (mobile phones for the millennials), blubbing and gentle left-to-right swaying but like the result of the election itself, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

The first warm-up, which had already started when we walked in, was as soft and as acoustic as one would expect when a night of love and tragedy songs was on the cards.

Next; a shock to the system, an act I have never previously heard of “Rag’n’bone’ Man” absolutely blew my mind; a rich, soulful blues voice that silenced everyone in the venue, the roars and cheers after each song could’ve confused recent entrants thinking they were missing the main act! The songs were catchy; the fantastic mix of singing and rapping were done with perfect balance, the music was rich and that voice, THAT VOICE!

At this point after the high of rag’n’bone man you could be mistaken thinking Tom Odell’s act would be a dampener, his slow, sometimes melancholy songs seemed an odd follow-up after the rock-backed hip-hop / blues mix so when he came out and sat at his baby grand piano centre-stage a strange air of what I’ll call “unexpectation” overcame the room; that is you expect good things but you’re unsure of how it could possibly surprise, especially after the last act! So did it? Well, YES… in short.

From the first song through to the 4 song encore Tom Odell’s talent of taking songs about utter heartbreak and turning them into festival-esque, crowd-crazed anthems is unparalleled. 10 minutes into his performance he informed the crowd he’d broken his piano from playing to hard which set the tone for the rest of evening! Climbing up onto the piano stomping, pointing the mic at the crowd, getting us the clap along and an extended version of each song which was a bit of a freestyle between the band and the audience singing along was an absolute masterclass of how to get a crowd pumped up and you did, enthusiastically!

I’ve read criticism of Tom trying to be “too much of a rockstar”, and I can see where that stems from… the studio versions of the songs are much tamer, much more intimate and some may be disappointed if like me you go into a Tom Odell gig expecting candles and cuddles but for me this is what live music and gigs are all about…

Unexpectation.

Go.See.Listen.Live

Words by Adam Everington (@Adam_Everington)

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