Tom Odell At The Olympia Theatre, Dublin, on Tuesday 1st November 2016
It’s Tuesday night at The Olympia and word has it there’s a party going on full of drink, songs and stories, with the host for the evening being Tom Odell; a sprightly young twenty-something who makes it his mission to entertain the crowd. For the most part he delivers, as on the night he and his band produce a whirlwind show that has as much energy as a West End musical. Much like the transition from his debut album Long Way Down to his follow up Wrong Crowd, his show is bigger, bolder and more flamboyant than anything he’s done before. At times though it feels more like a Vegas show because of the heavy-handed nature of the performance. A lot of the earlier songs have extended outros which don’t serve any real purpose besides making a big splash to start off the show.
Odell is definitely the ring leader of it all as his band feeds off his energy and his urgency. Judging from what he puts into his performance, it’s as if every song is his last. He’s also someone who wears his heart on his sleeve as he changes from full-blown pop anthems to heartfelt ballads, both of which reveal equally as much about him. Some of his newer songs go down as if they were were off his first EP. Wrong Crowd really strikes a chord with the crowd, as the song suggests “I can’t help it, I don’t know how, I guess I’ll always be hanging round with the wrong crowd.” Odell has a bit of a rebellious streak and it adds another layer to his persona instead of being just another singer-songwriter.
He isn’t shy either and he makes sure to interact with the crowd between songs. It’s not just for show though, as he clearly cares about his audience. Even when he says “It’s great to be back in Dublin, this is one of our favourite venues in the world” it isn’t just lip service – he clearly loves playing in more intimate venues. While some of his newer songs may seem like they’re made to fill arenas, he has never abandoned his singer-songwriter roots. Even a song like Concrete with it’s polished production sounds at home in The Olympia Theatre, as Odell steps away from the piano and gets up close and personal with the crowd.
Halfway through his set his band leaves the stage and it’s just Odell and his piano. Before he launches into the next song he takes some time to address the crowd. He talks about how his second album in many ways feels like being on a second date with his audience. Odell says“Things are still a bit awkward, but you feel like you know each other a little better” and then goes on to paint the picture for his next song, Constellations. To seal the deal he downs his Guinness, much to the delight of the crowd. Despite the humorous preamble, he goes on to deliver a beautiful rendition of the song and reminds us that behind all the glitz and glamour he’s a songwriter at heart.
The crowd is in fine voice the whole night and they know his older songs just as well as his newer ones. There’s never a lull in proceedings as a result of this, and the energy is high for most of the show – a lot of this is down to his band, who have the same frenetic energy as Odell. That’s probably the best way to describe the show as a whole – they conjure up a chaotic energy which they somehow manage to keep in check. There are times where they do let loose, but most of the time they are just on the edge of doing so. This brings a real urgency to the performance and makes for a truly captivating show.
For the most part, it’s the more upbeat songs that grab the crowd’s attention, but there are some that fall a bit flat. Sparrow feels like it’s caught between being a fully fledged pop anthem and a more traditional ballad. In a live setting, it can feel a bit schizophrenic as it fails to be either. It’s less about the song itself, but more about how in a live setting having songs that hit different tones makes for an all round better show. Some of his earlier material also feels a little more straightforward in comparison with his newer material. There are still the big choruses in there but the same attention to creating a groove is sorely lacking.
Thankfully, he ends the night on a high note with the stellar Magnetised, which caps things off perfectly. It shows us that when he wants to Odell can really bring things up a notch. It’s essentially a dance track in the way it builds, but it has much more substance. We see another extended outro during the song, but this time it makes way for a drum solo before bursting into life for one final chorus. It’s hard not to admire someone that puts so much energy and passion into their performance – for Tom Odell it’s clearly the only way he knows how to perform.