Review: Tom Odell at O2 Guildhall, Southampton

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Tom Odell put on a fantastic show last Friday, the release day of his latest album. An incredible voice, with Odell providing brilliant showmanship and a great atmosphere.

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Queuing up outside the O2 Guildhall, I was surrounded by couples. The girlfriends had clearly dragged their boyfriends, who joked and teased, asking if it was time to go home yet, if they could still turn around now and meet their other half later. Evidently not Tom Odell fans, but little did they know that in a few hours they would change their minds about the young man and his talent and that they’d be persuaded by his fantastic showmanship.

Odell’s third album, Jubilee Road, came out on Friday 26th October, the day of his Southampton tour date, which made his performance even more exciting. Everyone was huddled together, crowding around the front of the stage, lights dim. He walked on confidently with a cheeky grin, wearing a wonderful green suit that you couldn’t help but admire. Sat down at his piano, one spotlight focused on him. The light was white against a blacked-out stage. Slowly, as ‘Jubilee Road’ picked up, and each band member introduced, a new spotlight came on. It was a clichéd classic way to open a performance, but nonetheless it worked. The suspense built. It was dramatic and theatrical.

From the very first song, he showed off his vocal range and the strength of his voice. Everyone was impressed by the length he could hold his notes for, and we were all completely blown away by his raw, powerful voice. I hadn’t realise a Tom Odell concert could be like this.

Odell didn’t mess around or waste time. By the time he sang through ‘I Know’, the second song of his setlist, he’d already thrown his piano stool across the stage. He ran his hands up and down the keys, effortlessly, naturally, impressing everyone in the audience. He stood up and brought his whole body into his performance, as if he was feeling the music. The balance between the slow performances with himself and his piano only, and the dramatic, loud and heavily layered moments with his band, the volume and dynamics, the lights, were all perfect.

When the band were introduced and given their own solos, the image on stage was beautiful: Odell stood on top of the piano with his back to the audience, and the guitarist and bassist moved to centre stage, behind the piano, all facing towards the drummer. At that moment, the performers forgot about us. It was about them, doing what they loved, like a jamming session, and no one else mattered. It was brilliant- they were working together perfectly and nothing else mattered.

The images on stage and the lighting was beautiful, dramatic and atmospheric throughout the whole performance. ‘Wrong Crowd’ left an unforgettable, theatrical image in my head, of a stage blacked out with the exception of a projection of Odell’s shadow onto a red curtain behind. The performance was more than Odell, his voice and piano. He owned the stage, and Friday’s concert proved that he is more than just a singer/pianist; he is an artist and performing runs through him.

It was also through this song where he showed us his sense of humour, as he attempted to whistle the melody. Rather than creating a haunting, dramatic effect, the audience found it funny, and Odell admitted that he’d attempted it at every show so far and he still couldn’t hack it. The crowd chuckled along. He requested we, well, those who could, join in. “Suddenly we’re Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” he laughed into the mic.

Someone in the front row had an inflatable ghost and, towards the end of ‘Hold Me’, the tempo slowed down and Odell took the ghost on stage and serenaded it, failing to keep a straight face. We were reminded of his fantastic stage presence once again, but also of his genuine sense of humour and his great interaction with the crowd. During moments like those you couldn’t help but laugh along.

It finally came to the moment we were all waiting for. He looked at the crowd, knowing exactly what we wanted, and we knew what was to come but were just waiting, waiting for the first note to confirm it for us. Once it did, we screamed, looking with excitement at one another. For the entirety of ‘Another Love’, all the strangers in that one room were united in song.

For the encore, he finished with ‘Magnetised’, joking about only having a minute or so left before he’d be kicked off stage. He reminded us again that he was cheeky and funny, fantastic with a piano, an incredible singer, but clearly great with people too. He knew how to play an audience, he knew what we wanted, and he knew how to tease us until we got it. Even if you are not a fan of his music, Friday’s show proved that you couldn’t deny his talent and extraordinary voice.

Tom Odell’s new album, Jubilee Road, is out now, via Columbia Records. Watch the music video for ‘Magnetised’ below.

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