Having first performed in Bristol last November when he supported Jake Bugg, Tom Odell returned to the Thekla on Friday as the headline act following his recent meteoric breakthrough into mainstream consciousness. After scooping the Brits Critics’ Choice award at the end of 2012 and a nominated place in the BBC Sound of 2013 poll, Odell and his bouncing piano antics certainly seem to be headed for super-stardom this year. This latest UK tour also serves as a chance for the 22 year old singer-songwriter to showcase new tracks off his debut studio album, ‘Long Way Down’, before it undoubtedly hits a high spot in the charts this April.
Emerging onto the stage clutching a bottle of Jameson’s whiskey, Odell had attracted a sell-out crowd for this intimate and special gig. Special because it certainly feels as though this type of close-quarters concert will soon be a thing of the past as fame and much larger venues surely await Odell in the not-too distant future. Sitting down in front of a glistening black Roland piano, the roar of applause that greeted his arrival signified that although relatively new to the scene, the young singer has already succeeded in attracting a legion of adoring fans.
As the opening chords of ‘Grow Old With Me’ played out into the darkness, the room was soon swaying in unison as a gentle but powerful voice captivated ears on both tiers of the venue. The stand out track of the evening came early on with ‘Can’t Pretend’ which delicately juxtaposed thumping piano chords with haunting vocals that seemed to float from the stage before being caught in the lips of audience members who eagerly sang along. An extremely talented pianist, striking piano keys led the charge through a set which perfectly balanced foot stomping anthems such as ‘Supposed To Be’ and ‘Till I lost’ with heart-felt ballads, ‘Another Love’ and ‘Stay Tonight’.
The physicality of Odell’s performance was striking in its visual intensity and gradually built through an impressive track list that contained a score of future hits. It’s clear to see that Odell is thoroughly enjoying his new found fame although his attempts to project a ‘Rock’n’Roll’ persona felt somewhat contrived at times, especially when he started sharing his bottle of whiskey with the crowd… at a 14+ gig. Still, gimmicks aside, as the set wore on, a tangible sense of energy coursed throughout the Thekla’s hold erupting in fine style with a riotous crowd-clapping rendition of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Honky Tonk Woman’. Closing the night, ‘Hold Me’ was a crowd favourite that had Odell bouncing across the keyboard before kicking his stool away to deliver an emphatic finale to an impressive set.
An extremely accomplished and confident performance from such a young talent, Odell looks set to be a massive star and Bristol can only look forward to his return in October at the O2 academy.
Words: Alex Saunders
Photos: Darren Paul Thompson