Whilst Lily Allen’s short-lived "In the Name Of" record label, which Sony Music backed, was noted for an absence of quantity of successful artists; this label nonetheless left an impressive legacy of quality artists in its own right; after all, Tom Odell who was signed in 2012 was taken on by Sony’s Columbia Records after dissolution and is now about to release his fourth album Monsters.
With COVID halting live music at music venues, Odell did not resist temptation and used his Jazz Café show to promote his new material. For Tom, it was an opportunity to return to what he and many artists have missed: playing to a live audience. This is how the socially distanced audience saw it, and Tom showed overarching boldness by taking on this legendary and suave joint on his own.
Seldom a light could have been seen until Tom sat and pulled himself with the piano stall into the piano where his new shorter haircut and torn jeans could be visibly seen as he began singing an early non LP song, “Behind the Rose”. Despite the purposeful haunting and melancholy impact of this piano-led song with emotive lyrics “You can’t take back a song once it’s been written, but that’s the beauty behind the rose” brought tremendous elation and ecstasy to the audience who just about retained their cool by remaining seated; after all, the Jazz Café is a hip joint and one must still look cool whilst being emotionally taken hostage by the music.
Whilst not pretending to be a jazz pianist like Jamie Cullum, Tom nonetheless adopted a jazz raconteur rapport with the audience by introducing each song with a story with laidback posturing. Whether it was the songs were introduced, or how Odell was able to show the range, passion and power of his voice as he then sang “Grow Old With Me” (the opening song to his debut LP Long Way Down); Tom received a standing ovation who rewarded the crowd with a heartfelt and satisfying smile which was well captured by the spotlight.
Despite having the Jazz Café in his grasp, it was at that moment that Odell chose to show his vulnerability by telling the story about his track “Sense” when he moved to London aged twenty and how as a “countryside lad everything was fucking terrifying”. “Sense” created such audience excitement (albeit sedentary) that Tom had to hush the crowd from premature jovial applause twice subtly.
Whether it was Tom’s honesty about not having “many happy songs”; Tom was able to continuously through his 75 minute set uplift peoples spirits even as he reached the zenith of his own fragility about suffering from panic attacks and how despite trying several methods; it was only through songwriting that he was able to face them head-on with a new song and the title track from his new album Monster. Whilst Tom’s new material brought a new level of darkness, it also brought a song Tom had yet to debut live, what Tom described as his “least miserable” song with a positive sentiment” called “Don’t be afraid of the Dark”.
Despite focusing on the darkness and heart-breaking aspects of life, Tom was also able to tell funny stories from his childhood and some of the characters from a song who lived down the street, which was also the title track of his last, third LP, Jubilee Road. The “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” inspired song introduced the Jazz Café to the “grumpy” and “grey” Mr Bouvier, who, according to Tom, doesn’t like him anymore.
What has to be Tom’s highlight at the Jazz Café is how he got the audience to sing back one of his songs as if they were at an outdoor festival as opposed to a sophisticated indoor intimate jazz venue. The song was not “Another Love”, but “Money”, and Odell got his audience to lose their inhibitions and nerves from being deprived of live music as they repeated back to him, “Fuck them, it’s all about me”.
After one of the shortest encores most people would have seen (it looks like encores are here to stay for Tom anyway), Tom played out with his main hit, which has received over 300 million YouTube views and counting: “Another Love”. Like a deft mixologist, Tom showed how emotional, passion, soul and authenticity with superb musicianship could uplift and elate even when the songs produced are carved out of one's demons.
Jazz Cafe Camden, London – 21/06/21
Behind the Rose
Grow Old With Me
Half As Good As You
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark
Lose You Again