Tom Odell at Camden Assembly
Sliding onto his piano stool with little fanfare, Tom Odell’s solitary stage presence as he opened his special charity performance at the Camden Assembly seemed endearingly but almost painfully awkward. That was until his fingers hit the keys. Instantly filling the 200 person room with the unique energy we associate only with the music greats, Odell’s emotive lyrics, towering piano crescendos and astounding voice had every breath held from start to finish.
Hailing from Brighton, known for its little nooks of live music venues and a hotbed of talent for musicians and artists, the intimate London space – formerly known as the Barfly – in a way seemed like a return home to him. Shooting to fame at just 22, the 2013 Brits Critics’ Choice award winner is now usually packing out huge arenas. But at this intense small-scale gig it was possible to literally hear a pin drop (or rather the spurt of the soda gun and ice cubes clinking as the bartender went about his business at the back of the upstairs pub room) as Odell hesitantly searched for words to fill the space between numbers.
All was transformed, though, as he kicked off with Growing Old with Me from debut album Long Way Down, followed by Heal and stunning new track For a Change. Social awkwardness gave way to charm as the singer bantered with the crowd about his so very East London life, his day filming the Christmas Top of the Pops, and involuntary noises from over-excited fans. He lulled the audience with John Lennon’s Real Love and festive song (Next Year) I’m Spending My Christmas with You, which he wrote especially for Radio 1’s live lounge because he was “tired of doing covers”, filling in the unfinished bits with jingle bells. Magnetism and Constellations showed off the best of new album Wrong Crowd. But an absolute highlight was the heart-wrenching Another Love that brought him fame; a goosebump-inducing, impassioned performance and extended instrumental section reverberated around the walls, lingering on the ears long after he finished playing.
The simplicity of Odell’s acoustic set was enthralling, channelling something of Elton John’s manner and musical prowess to create a sound and presence so much larger than his down-to-earth, understated demeanour. Raising money for music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins, the artist spoke passionately about the power of music. And with this deeply personal and exceptional demonstration of talent, he certainly proved that power.
Photos: Erol Birsen
For further information about Tom Odell and future events visit here.
Watch the video for Another Love here: