The lights dim, and out walks Tom who gives a slight smile and wave. He sits upon a stool in front of a piano, a single spotlight shining upon him. He plays the first notes and a sea of hushes spread through the crowd. This is where Odell starts; just him, a piano, and the audiences’ full attention.
The West Sussex singer-songwriter’s subtleness doesn’t last for long however. As his band slowly joins him on stage, the light show begins, and the crowds silent awe becomes a loud chorus to Odell’s next song, ‘I Know.’ This transition marks the rest of the two-hour set, it rides the wave between his new music and old, the high energy sounds and slower, his planning and coordination and pure improvisation. This mixture between pop-crooner and powerful rocker is what makes Odell so endearing. His appeal stems from not only his extreme talent and entrancing vocals, but his contrastingly awkward and confident stage persona. Tom Odell’s return to Usher Hall marks the sixth stop on his UK tour, Jubilee Road in promotion of his album release of the same name. Jubilee Road’s inspiration stems from Odell’s time living and recording within a suburban home in East London, writing songs about the people and experiences that surrounded him there.
When introducing a new song from his album, Odell recounts a moment watching a man in a bar in Los Angeles. “He was telling a joke and everyone around him was laughing but he looked very sad”, Odell explains to the crowd, “and I thought ‘what a cock’ but then on closer inspection I realized that person was me”. He grabs the glass of whiskey on top of his piano, motions a cheers to the crowd, takes a sip, and begins the first live performance of the beautiful ‘Don’t Belong in Hollywood’. This signature heart-warming storytelling translates through his performance of songs spanning his three album career, from the popular ‘Another Love,’ the intimate ‘Concrete,’ and newly released lovesong ‘Half as Good as You.’ The crowd is lost within his words, mixing screams and wolf whistles with shouts of “I love you” between each break in song.
The audience isn’t alone in being entranced by the music, Odell himself gets lost within the powerful energy of the night. He throws his piano stool in a fit of rock and roll until seconds later recalling to the audience “I need that, idiot” and quickly placing the stool back where it belongs. Mid-way through his set, standing on his piano, he motions to his band to hit the notes harder and faster, until he returns to his instrument suddenly breaking out into playing Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise.’ The tunes of Beethoven then transition into John Lennon’s ‘Imagine,’ where Odell sings the first note then laughs and reassures the audience that “This isn’t planned by the way.” The set ends with Odell returning to the stage with an additional four songs. The audience, to their delight, keeps up with his every move.
Image: Drew de F Fawkes via Flickr