The stage is set simply with big letters lit up with bulbs to spell out Tom Odell’s name. It all feels a little like the Elvis ’68 comeback special. Classic, maybe. Original, no. This sensation will only grow towards the climax of Odell’s set, as he turns to the crowd and introduces each band member, allowing said individual to solo and indulge in some scale frippery or other.
It must be said, for all the heavy criticism that Tom Odell has come under (and that debut record does feel like a calculated plea for commercial success), live he can deliver the goods. He unleashes a beautiful and impassioned ‘Can’t Pretend’ only two songs in. Thankfully, he has equal in store for later. He is in fine form and it becomes plainly evident why A&R men were rushing to obtain his ink on their paper.
His backing band provide a thunderous accompaniment. The consequence of their heavy touring schedule is evident. This is a tight group. There is some joyfully rollicking piano. For all the anticipated balladry, the surprise is that there is so much head-nod inducing bluesy rock. We should hope that some of the extended musical excursions showcased here actually provide an indicator for a direction that Odell might go for his second record. It is one to be encouraged, and it would appear that he relishes the pounding, primal beat more than he does the plaintive tinkle of ‘Hold Me’ or the closing ‘Another Love’ (no matter how rapturously received).
Saying that, he does slow things down for a solo cover of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’. What could rightly be accused of cliché is perfect for a festival crowd as the sun goes down. He brings nothing new – it is a faithful rendition – but it is consummately executed and passionately received.
By the time his set is finished, the crowd is full of smiling faces. A thoroughly unexpected highlight had just graced the stage.