Odell’s piano playing seemed textured, layers of notes intersecting with each other rather than following one by one.
Marquis Theatre, Denver
Young British singer-songwriter Tom Odell is immensely talented. In 2013, the then-22-year-old won the Critics’ Choice at the BRIT Awards; the following year, he was named Songwriter of the Year at the Ivor Novello Awards. His 2012 Songs from Another Love EP and subsequent 2013 full-length, Long Way Down, were in frequent rotation on my iPod when they came out. This past summer, Odell dropped his second LP, Wrong Crowd.
I didn’t quite know what to expect from his live show, but I certainly didn’t want to miss it. Would it be just Odell and his piano? A couple backing musicians to better complete the live experience? Either one would have been fine. What I got instead, though, was a full-on musical assault: a guitarist, a bassist, and two drummers, each of whom provided backing vocals. This resulted in a rich, textured presentation of the music, with layers of voice and sound building upon one another. (This also meant tight quarters for the players, as the architects of the tiny Marquis stage obviously hadn’t considered the possibility of two drum kits.)
Odell varied the routine early, on song two offering an extended outro to “I Know” that had everyone clapping and singing along. “Concrete” was perhaps the most beautiful, awe-inspiring delivery of the night, with a slow burn and falsetto vocals building to a cacophony of sounds. For much of the night, Odell’s piano playing seemed textured, layers of notes intersecting with each other rather than following one by one.
Although he didn’t speak much, the artist endeared himself to the crowd when he told a story about “Constellations”: “When we wrote this song, we were picturing a bar much like this one,” he said, painting a picture: glasses tinkling, people talking, tables sticky with whiskey from two nights ago, exit signs lit, headlights going by. “Pretend you’re not watching me,” he said with a smile. “It’s just you two and there’s no one else there.”
A musical free-for-all provided the introduction to the rollicking “Hold Me, while an all-hands-on-deck a cappella delivery accompanied current single “Here I Am.” For the beautiful “Another Love,” the song that introduced Odell to the world, the artist delivered the first stanza and refrain alone, just his voice and the piano, before the band joined in.
The two song encore began with galloping drums and ended with Odell atop his piano, carefully dodging the ceiling beams while clapping along to the band’s swell. Obligatory band member introductions with obligatory brief solos followed. The band amped back up one more time, revisiting the refrain before going into full-on jam mode to send us home: “Safe travels,” Odell offered before departing the stage.
Odell is charming, absorbed, captivating, awkward. It’s not hard to picture him as a kid, inside, alone at the piano, while the other boys play outside, kicking a soccer ball and stealing cigarettes from the corner store. But look where it’s gotten him: all the other blokes working at the factory, while he’s touring the world.
On the whole, it’s safe to say I wasn’t quite expecting this. Of course, I knew I’d get the piano and that voice, but the quiet/loud, bare/full juxtapositions were amazing. I could never get this song presentation from an album—which is not something you can say about every show. Tom Odell was worth staying up late on a Monday night for.
For his part, opener Barns Courtney held the audience’s attention and got them involved. His solo acoustic set was well received, with some call-and-response numbers and single “Fire” setting the stage for what was to follow. | Laura Hamlett
Photos by Jim Dunn; view more photos here