“Words they always win, but I know I’ll lose”…

Tom Odell – Leeds

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So, cast your mind back to the early part of this year. I set myself a goal of 40 gigs for my 40th birthday. This quickly got changed to 40 events as it became apparent just how difficult 40 music gigs would be!

At the time of booking Tom Odell, I had never heard of him and other options were thin on the ground. But for 12 quid at the Leeds O2 academy it worked from the point of trying to keep the cost of this quest down. Fast forward 9 months and almost everyone in the UK now knows of Tom Odell.

He has done alright, sold a few CD’s, got a couple of awards and picked up one or two more followers after some really good sets, notably his Glastonbury appearance. His management must have been ruing that they didn’t see it coming as they could have easily sold out this gig at 20 quid + a ticket.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, as it was with my ticket purchase. At the time, young Ollie had no clue who he was, so this was scheduled as another gig for 1. However that changed over time and in the end, we were fortunate to eventually find him a ticket on twitter. I say we were, what I mean is I was fortunate to end the strops and sulks!

It was only arriving at the venue that I realised that there could be a slight drawback. The O2 is split between standing and a balcony and looking at the amount of people already queuing for the standing, getting a view point for young Ollie was going to be a challenge. So on the 2nd attempt at asking, I managed to convince a young couple to switch with us for balcony tickets.

It proved to be the best thing we did for a couple of reasons that I will touch on as this ramble continues. Please remember, this is not a gig review, I am not a critic – if you want that, please go to Google and search, where you will find really good ones!

So we found a great view on the balcony, to the right of the stage and seats, which proved to be a godsend and this is my first moan. The ticket said doors at 7pm and we were queuing from 6.20pm, nothing too bad, but there was no mention of support on the ticket, let alone 2 support acts.

With a crowd that had a lot of young faces on a school night, Tom wasn’t to strut onto stage until 9.35ish. That’s a long time to wait, even for a seasoned gig goer like myself. OK OK, I sound like an old man, but this is my blog, my ramble and whilst Ollie was in awe of his surroundings at first, his attention began to wane after a long day at school.

The first support were the energetic Wildflowers. With a folksy / Nashville sound and a clutch of deeply written songs, they were very watchable and managed to quieten the very chatty gathering crowd. Young Ollie was not impressed however, it was a no from him. When asked the reason, he said it was because “girls singing make my ears hurt”. Who can argue with a 12 year old.

However – Ollie apart – The Wildflowers really got the crowd going and it was all credit to them and I will make an effort to look them up on you tube at some point. With that act over with, the stage was being changed around again and after what felt like an age, a young girl came on – Denai I think – who was a singer songwriter and to be honest, I felt sorry for her. The sell-out crowd was largely in at this point and very loud / talkative.

And in contrast to the Wildflowers, her subtle voice and delicate songs were drowned out by the crowd for the most part. At points she looked like a rabbit in the headlights. At this point, Ollie started to drift off and get grumpy. He came to see Tom and Tom was nowhere to be seen.

As Denai departed, I assured Ollie that Tom wouldn’t be far away, but how wrong was I. For a lad and his piano it seemed an amazing amount of time for things to be set up. He was to be accompanied by drummer, bass and guitar, but you do wonder what they do during sound checks. Do they set everything up and then just de-tune everything and start again as the crowd awaits – perhaps it’s a roadie in joke.

If this delay was planned to hype up Tom’s appearance, then someone needs to tell him it makes for more frustration than anticipation. I thought it was just Ollie being impatient, but the people around me of all ages were complaining too. Again hindsight is a wonderful thing and next time I will ring the venue when taking Ollie.

By 9.15 I was sure that he would appear, but no, we had to wait and wait and then when we saw him at the door – we had to wait some more before he strutted onto the stage to deafening female screams. It awoke young Ollie from his near slumber and from then on I had the pleasure of a double gig experience.

Let me explain. This was the first gig that Ollie had been to that it was – what we now consider – his music. Other gigs he has seen, Crowded House, Justin Currie, Bon Jovi and the like have been adopted from me if that makes sense. So to see his face light up and sing along as the songs were belted out were a joy to watch.

In many ways it made up for the delays and he was loving it. As were the sell-out crowd. Tom himself is clearly a very accomplished performer – amazing voice, amazing ability and a sublime talent. His songs hit the spot on many levels and seem to draw from the likes of Bowie and Elton John.

He rattled through his album “Long Way Down” – if you haven’t heard it, you really must, with most carrying an anthemesq sound that Coldplay would be proud of. It really will be interesting to see what he comes up with next, but “Grow old with me”, “Hold Me” and “Another Love” were just simply stunning

His Beatles cover of “Get Back” was really cleverly worked too. The stage was cleverly lit and the tightness of the band he worked with was clear to see. As a performer, there was a lack of interaction with the crowd, I would have like to have seen more of him in that respect, but in the end his set was so short, that it was better for him to stick to the songs this time.

I would think even he would want more connection from a crowd other than screaming and the odd “take your shirt off” request from men and women alike!  The main thing that struck me was the energy in which he puts into his songs, at one point, he had thrown away the microphone, kicked away the chair and was stood belting out his music.

OK, it wasn’t the Rolling Stones, but the crowd lapped it up and Ollie was in awe of his “new” hero! Liam Finn had better up his game by the time Ollie sees him in the flesh or he may well be overtaken. So as quick as a flash, the set was over and we departed into the dark. I suppose for the money paid that was fair enough, but encore included, it was little over an hour.

Still, another good night on my Forty for Forty quest that will now take me to London for my next music stop. Nick Cave. Did I mention that? Nick Cave in London. NICK FUCKING CAVE IN LONDON. However, until then I leave this ramble for the 2nd time this week with a Tom Odell track – this is the aforementioned “Another Love”.

Enjoy

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