“It’s great to be back in the best city in the world to play music live,” the enigmatic singer-songwriter declared to his sell out Barrowland’s crowd. The room cheered, almost as enthusiastically as they did when he managed to effortlessly work ‘Glaswegian’ into one of his lyrics.Friday’s set kicked off Odell’s Jubilee Road tour; a two week run of dates promoting his third album to be released later this month. Whilst the set list included a great mix of songs lifted from his debut and sophomore albums, he also previewed some newer music including the eponymous Jubilee Road, which opened the set.
I arrived to the Barrowland Ballroom on a typically rainy Glasgow evening. The crowd were eager to escape the cold, and the venue offered a warm welcome. We made our way up two flights of stairs into the dance hall, which had an intimate and almost vintage ambiance that felt fitting. Two acts opened the show; beginning with Alfie Connor, a London-based artist who delivered an acoustic set of amorous anthems. American singer-songwriter Max Jury led the second act, lending his country, gospel and trad rock influenced sound to the show. Both sets were stripped down, each artist a bit reminiscent of Odell himself.
I found myself in a crowd of couples, which seemed fitting since Odell writes the kind of music you would slow dance to in your kitchen at 2am. Yet what I expected to be a show filled with brooding vocals was anything but. Odell possessed a kind of magnetic quality that was tangible from the moment he stepped on stage in an emerald green suit. He sat center-stage at the piano, his long blonde hair shrouding his face as he lost himself in the music. It’s these moments when Odell is one with the piano that really steal the show; he becomes absorbed in a chaotically beautiful improvisation. The songs ends, and he looks out to the audience like he forgot they were even there for a moment.
But to convey that this show was any sort of static piano recital would be wrong. In fact, Odell seemed to spend as much time seated at the piano as he did standing atop of it rocking an air guitar or dancing around the stage. One song opened like smooth jazz, and the next he screamed “let’s go fucking crazy.” At one point, he playfully ended a song by dissolving into Beethoven’s Für Elise, silencing the crowd before jumping abruptly into the next song, Hold Me.
The magic of Odell’s music is the raw vulnerability of it, from the lyrics to the vocals. At times, they are haunting. At others, they profoundly capture the imperfections of the human experience. Odell crooned his latest single, You’re Gonna Break My Heart Tonight, and somehow managed to capture the vulnerability of falling in love. In another, he soulfully admitted to being “just the entertainment.” Halfway through the set, Odell treated the audience to another snippet of his upcoming album; Son of an Only Child. One lyric admits “I’m sick of singing about my broken heart.” In a way, this refreshingly upbeat tune heralds a shift in Odell as a musician, away from a comfort zone of hopelessly romantic ballads towards new territory.
The remainder of his setlist circled through previous romantic crowd-favorites, including I Know, Concrete, Can’t Pretend, and Grow Old With Me. A personal favorite, Sparrow, features hauntingly beautiful instrumentation that questions the fragility of life. Wrong Crowd is fueled with angst. At one point, the band left and a single-spotlight illuminated the piano for a chilling rendition of Heal.
The show closed with another love song, ironically titled Another Love. Odell had the crowd under his spell – they clung to every lyric and were left chanting for just “one more tune.” The band returned to the stage to play three encores – a song of love and loss from each album.
Experiencing Odell’s music live is a transcendent experience filled with raw emotion, from joy to melancholy. His lyrics touch a chord that anyone can relate to. If his new album is as promising as his performances are, Odell is set to gift fans a euphonious tour-de-force.
By Jordan Swope