It seems that pop is slowly turning soulful. A trend has taken over the commercial radio world in the last few years in which we see bluesy soulful singers getting as much air time as pop princesses. Artists like George Ezra, Tom Odell, and James Arthur are all shining examples of how powerful voices can be just as revered as the upbeat radio friendly vibes of other artists. This is good news for Tom Grennan. The Bedford born soulful indie rocker follows successful EP Something in the Water with a sold out solo tour and soon to be released Release the Brakes. Brum Live caught the powerhouse show at Sunflower Lounge where Tom wrapped fans in warm music and likeable humor.
Following a smasher of an opener Tom took to the sold out stage at Sunflower. Kicking things off Tom played “Old Songs” without the backing band. The song is a perfect introduction to Tom; it has bluesy undertones mixed with quick spit lyrics that reflect life and love. There is darkness in the song that reflects the true reality of life. It as if Tom’s music is merely a mirror that reflects his life growing up in Bedford and his current residence in London, there is grit but there is also hope. Tom’s raspy velvety voice dances through the basement, bouncing through each audience member’s ear. A slow smile cracks on the faces as people sway with the tempo, immediately transported by the first song.
“Giving It All,” a new song coming off the March EP is next on the docket. Joined by his band the new sound seems to bring a stronger production that still maintains Tom’s signature style and sound. It is really the natural progression for artists who keep adding in new elements as their career goes on, without stripping away their voice. Tom takes a break and tells the audience of a lad who is at the show rather than being at the hospital to be with his wife who is giving birth. A “legend,” the man is certainly committed to Tom and the music. It is not surprising that many of the audience members are just as dedicated. They track Tom’s movements, like he is supplying them with the nutrients they have long been craving. Even with the new songs, a few of which follow the baby announcement, the audience leans in with earnest ears to hear every syllable that drips out of Tom’s mouth.
The fervent display of adoration continues as Tom breaks into fan favorite “Sweet Hallelujah.” The song takes a bit of a slower tempo, less bluesy jazz and more transcendental indie rock. As Tom sings the crowd sways in single undulation, heads nodding in syncopation with what Tom and his band are playing. The song is certainly anthem oriented, it could easily be placed in the climax of an action movie, giving it a quality that is truly otherworldly. The crowd joins the singing in loud boisterous renditions of the chorus. For them it seems the song has hit an emotional mark, they have adopted the song as their own and sing as if it is the last song they will ever sing.
New song “Praying” follows the fan favorite. It gives the audience a chance to rest their vocal chords, no doubt worn out by the screaming from the last song. Yet the rest is not long, as Tom launches into EP title track “Something In the Water.” The song is a playful upbeat expression of longing and reflection. The mixture of up-tempo beats with serious lyrical content is the master mixing that Tom is able to produce, and certainly fans are as invested in this song as the others. With hands raised the crowd screams back each lyric that Tom sings.
The set wraps with “All Goes Wrong.” The song, created with Chase & Status, is a haunting euphoric trip about purpose and identity, about love and growing up. Done acoustically the song was an absolutely brilliant and beautiful way to end the commanding show. Tom owns the stage like a well-worn rock star; he commands the attention of every person. The room is silent and still, each breath is in line with the beat, and only Tom’s echoing voice is heard. The legend is at work, and no one wants to miss a minute. The last song ends, and Tom encourages fans to stay after and chat, which they do.
Tom Grennan is the leader of a new wave of music. Music that genuinely resonates with the human spirit, music that is genius crafted, music that has depth and purpose. With a voice that is otherworldly and a personality that is insanely friendly Tom shows us the good things that can come out of the music world. The new EP promises more of the brilliance that was seen at the Sunflower, and we cannot wait for more of this legend.
Review and Photography – Kylie McCormick