Gig Review: Tom Odell – O2 Academy Bristol – Tuesday 29th October

Tom OdellHaving arrived at O2 Academy Bristol in a terrible mood with dampened spirits, I wanted to be anywhere but standing in front of the stage at the crowded venue, packed in like a sardine and positioned behind an older, rounder gentleman who was breaking wind as he stood next to who I imagine was his beautiful girlfriend. I was beginning to question life and humanity; the drive up was shit, the car park was full, my beloved Arsenal were losing to Chelsea, by this point everyone else in the crowd was an idiot, someone was spilling their drink from the balcony, I’d only caught the end of the support act, Ruen Brothers, who sounded fucking superb, and I just wanted to be in bed. Then Tom Odell rocked up on stage at 9.30pm and turned my frown upside down. What a talent. Hang on – he’s only 22? Ridiculous. According to Wikipedia (Yep, I’m taking the lazy approach to journalism this morning), a young Odell started writing his own songs when he was 13, but didn’t tell anyone because he thought it was uncool. Nine years later and this boy is anything but and with lots of girls screaming “I love you”, I bet he’s glad that he put in the work when studying piano classically in his youth. Having enjoyed a successful 2013 with his debut album ‘Long Way Down’ being released, festival appearances a plenty and a BRIT Award to his name, this UK tour has been a hit when it comes to ticket sales. So, the hype is there, and he of course has the talent to back it up. Joining his band on a stage that had been cloaked in smoke minutes before, Tom Odell sat at his piano and played the opening keys to “Grow Old With Me” to an audience who had been eagerly waiting in anticipation. The song has a 30 second lead in before his gorgeous vocal kicks in and his first words were met with cheers. There’s a lot of criticism levelled at the wider music industry for producing talentless hacks who sell records off the back of a manufactured image, but I think to some degree we’re blessed when it comes to the array of talented singer-songwriters coming out of the UK at the moment. Tom is very much one of them and feels unique by virtue of his chosen instrument. His voice is stunning. The atmosphere in the O2 Academy last night was odd in comparison to recent gigs I’ve attended at the fine venue. It seemed to be busier than I remember seeing it, but it was fairly subdued. Having said that, someone mastering the piano, playing with a full band and nailing it with the vocal performance left me in stunned silence at times, so perhaps Tom just has that effect on people. His songs have particularly strong choruses that are made for sing-alongs, but it wasn’t until later in the set that the crowd started to loosen up. “Can’t Pretend” was the second song to come out and it took me by surprise that it came so early. Despite being performed brilliantly, I wondered to myself whether it lost a bit of impact coming at the start of his set. The highlight of the night for me was the performance of “Sense”, a piano acoustic that was stunning. The stage lighting, which had the range of Joseph’s technicolour dream coat and more, turned to red, which isn’t particularly significant but seemed to make a difference, and as with all of his songs on the night it was impeccable. I say it was the highlight of the night, though a stupidly attractive woman did brush by me and I felt her breasts rub against my back (by now I was grateful for feeling like a sardine), but as far as musical highlights go that was definitely the one. Seemingly shy at first, Mr Odell came out of his shell after receiving a rapturous applause at the end of “Sense” and then sucked up to the crowd by saying about how his gigs in Bristol were always the highlight of his previous tours. He’s been reading that ‘How To Please A Crowd’ handbook that PR companies hand out to all musicians. The energy for “I Know” was electric as it was for other ‘Long Way Down’ tracks including “Sirens” and “Supposed To Be”. When a strong album is complemented by outstanding live performances of its songs, you know you’re witnessing a superstar in the making. When “Another Love” arrived the audience erupted and when the bass drum kicked in and the beat dropped, it produced the biggest sing-along of the night. His passion when playing this song is clear and why wouldn’t it be? It’s become his signature tune. It’s huge and seems to be everywhere; according to his Twitter, he even hears it when his mobile phone network places him on hold. I was surprised at the positioning in the set, as I was dead certain this would be the song he’d end on after the encore. Who am I to question the man, though? “Hold Me” followed and this performance was epic. Tom and the band then took a breather before the aforementioned encore, which was exhilarating. Fuelled with power and energy, it started with “Gone At Last” a brilliant Paul Simon cover, which was followed with “See If I Care” from the ‘Another Love’ EP and then a cover of Etta James’s “I Just Want To Make Love To You,” which just won him more points on the ‘coolness chart’. Leaning across the piano and pointing his finger at the crowd when slightly revising the lyrics to “I just want to make love to ALL of you”, made me wish we could swap careers. The females in the crowd all screamed and he smirked, which was a nice moment. Why didn’t I learn to play piano? Ending the night on another belter, which I’m ashamed to say I didn’t catch the name of, I left O2 Academy thoroughly impressed by Tom Odell. Friends of mine had seen him at Glastonbury and said he was outstanding and having witnessed it myself I share the same view. He’s got a strong album and a voice to match it and I genuinely can’t wait to hear what comes next from him. I left O2 Academy Bristol in a much better mood than when I entered it. I wasn’t as bitter or cynical and I decided to pretend that the older fat guy with flatulence had actually found his soul mate and not just a gold digger. Thank you, Tom. Cheered me up. Well done. Review by Arran Dutton Keep up to date with news on Tom Odell at For upcoming dates at O2 Academy Bristol, visit While you’re here… The Fix is delighted to support independent film and to be involved with comedy/drama series The Awkward Conversations We Have.  Here’s the opener, titled, Son We’re Swingers: