Tom Odell stirs up the emotions in Leeds with Rae Morris in support

If I am being completely honest I’m only here tonight because Rae Morris is playing support, I have a bad track record with Tom Odell, having missed his last tour due to illness and a car fault, and when he was due to support The Rolling Stones at Hyde Park he pulled out due to illness literally 20 mins before stage time.

No such problems tonight though, however, first the aforementioned Rae Morris. I’ve followed Rae ever since she played Live at Leeds at the Holy Trinity Church many many years ago, which was quite the cathartic experience – seeing a teenager from Blackpool stun several hundred people with such clarity of voice and her heartfelt written piano ballads. Since then she has gone through some massive life changes, changing record label from Atlantic to RCA, 2nd album was more dance orientated which alienated some of her fans, she then married and now has a baby on tour with her. Tonight was a return to the city where she would have studied music but didn’t as her fledgling career took off. Her performance is very much a welcomed back to basics, just her and a piano and it is blissful to say the least.

The voice is as perfect as ever, clear tone and expressive as she tilts her head back to hit those higher octaves. Don’t Go, Grow, Someone Out There Loves You were all delivered with a breathy vocal that I haven’t heard in at least 2 years. Even Do it sounded better as just piano and vocals, I don’t honestly think anyone can match it right now. Its a shame the talkies were out tonight, if you were stood anywhere other than the first 10 rows you couldn’t hear her for “what we havin’ for tea Janice” and other shitetalk.

The stage is dark and a grand piano dominates the right hand space, Tom emerges from the side and we get first the cheers from this sold out Academy, and then a hush as he opens with a solo version of Numb the backing band are nowhere to be seen until a sudden crash bang wallop to emphasise the poignancy of the song – great opener and it morphs into Can’t Pretend and Sparrow, Tom only getting up from the piano once to check on the band and grab some water. He is looking trim and wearing a suit tonight, even had a hair cut although it still flops around in all the right places.

Its a cliché to say he had the crowd in the palm of his hand, but it is very true of tonight, the interaction was fairly minimal apart from the occasional raising of his hand for dramatic effect and the shaking of the blonde mop of hair, but this was enough, as it was the music doing the talking. He cleverly spread out the more well known tracks in the set, like Grow Old With Me and Half as Good as You, calling Rae Morris back to run a duet midway.

He’s no stranger to a cover or two, but tonight we don’t get Piano Man, instead its a brave and emotional run through of True Colours made famous by Cyndi Lauper. Truly beautiful, and finally I think we can now adopt Tom Odell as the natural successor to Billy Joel or possibly even Elton, if he lasts that long. Finally I can say he’s not a Jonah to my concert experiences any more. The encore song Another Love still remains one of my favourite piano ballads and this audience were singing along with extra gusto all the way through. This was a great stage production, difficult when the artist is pretty much stationary for 90%, but Tom Odell carried the performance across this venue, the perfect size for him I feel. Arenas are probably next and I think he will need to step out from the grand piano if he wants to dominate that size of space.

Photos & Words John Hayhurst

Setlist:
Numb
Can’t Pretend
Sparrow
Daddy
Heal
Tears That Never Dry
True Colours
Streets of Heaven
The Best Day of My Life
Grow Old With Me
Half as Good as You
Magnetised
Lose You Again
Hold Me

Encore:

Fighting Fire with Fire
Money
Concrete
Somehow
Another Love

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Philip Goddard

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