“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” - John Holmes
Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of attending Tom Odell’s performance and signing in HMV Chichester. I hadn't gone along with any certain expectations- since my prior knowledge of Tom had only been that he was from Chichester and had done a cover of a Beatles song for a John Lewis advert- however I was pleasantly surprised when he sat down and managed to silence a crowd of various ages and gender using only his voice and the black and white keys.
There was a raw and genuine aspect to the music that seemed to have the room captured when he sang, then when he spoke during interludes he managed to get the crowd to laugh along with him. He seemed at home up on the stage; maybe because it was his hometown and members of his family had come along; but the performance was one that reached everyone standing in that room that day. A weird experience for me, due to the fact that his music is not the sort I would normally take a liking to, however his unique singing voice made me a keen listener like the rest; I later found out that influences from David Bowie and Elton John alike may have played a part in this.
Two opportunities for me to talk to Tom himself arose; one before the performance and one afterwards. The former was only brief, in which a colleague and I were trying to find out where we should be and happened to stumble upon Tom talking to a few of his entourage. Amiable and unfazed by our bumbling, he came across as humble as he told us to enjoy the show and we scurried off again. The second encounter consisted of a few questions- “so that John Lewis advert…”- and a brief, mumbled, dorky review of the performance- “it was just, yeah, fab”- to which he laughed and answered graciously. In between these two occasions was a signing, in which people queued through the aisle of the shop and down the street, all waiting patiently for a precious few seconds with their idol. For a portion of the signing I stood around with some colleagues and it gave me the opportunity to hear from the fans themselves how much Tom meant to them. There were tears, words of gratitude and showerings of affection for the mid-twenty year old sat behind a table. From meters away you could see the excitement in people’s eyes and smiles, to an extent where lucky seemed like a measly word to apply.
As they told him he helped them through exams, tough times, lonely bus journeys, the man himself wore a smile that showed you that this affection was a two way street. Not only were these people feeling blessed, but it seemed as if Tom himself felt exactly the same way. Being there felt almost intrusive, but watching two people who had changed each other's lives meet for the first time was astounding. One scrawling of a pen upon a CD, a few thanks and enough of a smile to last a lifetime and someone would skip away a changed person gifted with a memory to last forever, and there was something magical about the whole experience. I wasn't a super-fan of Tom Odell, however the experience taught me a lot about the impact we have upon others. Tom had never met his fans, Tom’s fans had never met him, however his performing and their listening managed to form such a powerful connection between them. That's the beautiful thing about something like music, it doesn't require an explanation or a certain experience, it requires nothing but interpretation; one person listening to one song and feeling something, anything.
Tom Odell’s new album, 'Wrong Crowd', is out now.