This gig was the start of a diverse week of music that would also include ex-Gorky’s front man Euros Childs and electronic R ‘n’ B act AlunaGeorge. I’d briefly caught Tom at Dot to Dot back in May, but I was eager to see what all the fuss was about and if he could hold his own on his headline tour.
Date: October 27, 2013
Venue: Rock City
Oddly enough, the three bands on the bill tonight all played at the city’s multi-venue roving festival Dot to Dot earlier this year.
The Ruen Brothers are like The Beatles had they emerged from Scunthorpe onto Hamburg’s Reeperbahn. The early Fab Four influence is apparent, with 60s rock ‘n’ roll sweating beneath their roll neck tops.
But before them, Brighton’s Wildflowers are an example of how The Corrs would look and sound if they’d discovered a hippy commune just outside Nashville and learned how to play an array of instruments.
Their sound has been described as ‘Punky Dolly Parton’, but ‘punk’ might be stretching things a little. Ok, so singer Siddy Bennett has a Tennessee twang to her vocals, but their music – augmented by accordions, ukuleles and a harmonica – is more country-pop than anything remotely punky. You’d be hard pushed to find a punk band using an accordion, for example.
However, as Siddy leads her band through a set of quixotic pop songs, including a finale which is about a millimetre’s width from sounding like Kirsty MacColl on ‘Fairytale of New York’, the sizable crowd that have gathered early seem impressed. And rightly so.
And so onto the night’s main attraction, Tom Odell. At the risk of receiving a phone call from Tom’s seething father (he rang the NME after the magazine’s 0/10 album review) let’s get the negatives out of the way, shall we? Tom Odell’s award-winning album is not all killer: it does include fillers. Fact.
But before Mr Odell senior races for his phone to berate this review, hold fire dadio: because, while on record those fillers linger, in the live arena, they’re far beefier entities.
They’re fleshed out to reveal hidden layers, layers which swell like a maelstrom of piano-led fervour.
And Tom ain’t mucking about, either. He starts with ‘Grow Old With Me’ and ‘Can’t Pretend’, two songs which define his prodigious artistry.
And his primary influence is worn on his sleeve. It’s Elton. And he isn’t hiding it. Passionate glissandos, key-bombing stompers and effervescent displays of showmanship are all present and correct. Just as Elton would demand from himself.
With the crowd lapping up his pro-Nottingham rhetoric, he seems assured of himself. He’s composed, mature and sincere. He’s working the crowd, and they love it.
Also, his tribute to the sadly departed Lou Reed is met with complete silence. As he tinkles out an emotive, plaintive tribute, the respect is spine-tingingly omnipresent and hauntingly eerie.
But he isn’t perfect. A ragtime blues cover of The Beatles’s ‘Get Back’ is as far removed from the original as is humanely possible. In fact it’s almost a complete de-construction of the song.
His biggest hits – ‘Another Love’ and ‘Hold Me’ – are indeed winners, though. The former beginning with a solemn introduction before building into a bonafide anthem; the latter a bombastic, piano-battering belter.
There’s an encore of course, but we’ve already witnessed his best.
Mr Odell senior. Your son is a talented young man who has a few things to work on. But there’s no need to write in.