Review by Sara Reynolds with Photography by Wayne Fox

There is something totally rootsy about Tokio Myers. He’s appeared on large stages full of thousands of people, but you could just as easily imagine him busking alongside many of the talented musicians that line the streets & subways of central London. He’s classical, and yet urban all at once. He is the unexpected winner of 2017’s Britains Got Talent. But how so unexpected? Perhaps in the most part, due to how authentic he is as an artist – a self made musician and composer. Already forged from his own melting pot of rich experience – not that of any generic talent show format.

Tokio Myers, O2 Institute2, Birmingham, UK - 24 November 2019

Myers grew up, by his own admission, on a rough north London council estate. He said in his Britain’s Got Talent audition, that his life could easily have turned very differently, and not in a good way. At the age of 7, Myers’s father bought him a small piano. He grew up with the idea that his only true route to potential success was through plain hard work. He could, he says never have afforded to go to music school – but by sheer persistence and force of character he gained a full scholarship to The Royal College of Music. After this period of further education, Myers began his career as a session musician supporting the likes of maverick talents, including Amy Winehouse and Kanye West. Not too shabby a start to a career it would seem. These experiences with such creatives, one might assume, can only have helped shape Myer’s desire to form a kind of musical landscape all of his own.

Trained classically, Myers is foremost a pianist – but also plays the electronic drums, synth pads and synthesiser. Much of Myers music begins with a classical element, then he fuses this with a more modern influence, from various genres including: 90’s dance and soul, hip hop, and alternative – bringing these all up to date, and then getting even more up to date with music by artists from the UK urban grime scene.

Tokio Myers, O2 Institute2, Birmingham, UK - 24 November 2019

Tokio Myers, O2 Institute2, Birmingham, UK - 24 November 2019

After the release of his debut album ‘Our Generation’ in 2017, Tokio Myers returned to the Britains Got Talent Stage in 2018. He was supporting the final show for that year . Not only here did he perform a classical rendition of Robert Miles ‘Children’ but he mixed it up with that most famous of revolutionary speeches, by Martin Luther King: ‘I have a Dream’. The emotive and heartfelt playing of Myers seemed to enhance those words with some kind of newer and most relevant power. If we think about the demographic of a talent show like BGT, the majority of viewers will not have even been born when the reverend King made that Famous address. The speech was made to the people of America, and televised to the world. So Myers it would appear had a point to make, and we might only hope, that those incredible and prophetic words that the reverend spoke nearly 60 years ago, might reach that young ear. An ear so trained in the rhythm of the machine of superficial light entertainment, and I’d like to hope that somehow something more, might just have seeped through.

Tonight at the Institute, there is indeed something very real about Tokio Myer’s yet again. He’s pretty vocal between songs, full of connection and appreciation for his audience. He describes how hard the last year has been creating new songs for his soon to be released second album. He describes the toil and depression he’s been through. Almost oddly though, tonights venue is a small forum for Myers (much more used to often stadium sized venues), but it’s as if Myers is just wanting to reconnect again to the outside – something more tangible, after a long creative studio process.

Tokio Myers, O2 Institute2, Birmingham, UK - 24 November 2019

Tokio Myers, O2 Institute2, Birmingham, UK - 24 November 2019

The room may be small but the presence is large, and there is no need for any support acts tonight – it’s simply Tokio Myers with a lengthy and engaging set. Every piece seems quite different to the next, it’s a beautiful thing to hear, some of those 90’s influences coming through by some of Myer’s favourite artists like Faithless and the Massive attack. Myers is not attempting to hide those influences, in fact some of these songs are part covers, fused with beautiful renditions of classical music such as DebussyDebussy’s ‘Claire de Lune’. Yet Myers seems to elevate these influences via the use of comtemporary instruments, combined with his visibly passionate performance. On the piano he is lost in emotion, eyes closed, feeling every note, and yet then in the next moment he is up on his feet willing the audience, with drumsticks held high, to follow his forceful drum beat. A man of two sides, no actually much more than that, he’s a writer too and his beautiful self penned songs ‘Baltimore’ and ‘To be Loved’ stand up against all of the others.

He’s a creative, moving and flowing through both outer and inner forces, he’s for himself, but he’s also very much for his audience.

Tokio Myers, O2 Institute2, Birmingham, UK - 24 November 2019

Tokio Myers, O2 Institute2, Birmingham, UK - 24 November 2019

It’s going to be incredibly interesting to see what Myers produces on his second studio album. I have a strong suspicion that unlike many artists churned out by the talent show machine, Myers will continue to hone his own voice even more so (rather than less). There’s a sensation that he’s only just begun. I hope he has a long career, because the career of a true creative is a fascinating one to observe.

See the full photoset from tonight’s gig here.

Tokio Myers, O2 Institute2, Birmingham, UK - 24 November 2019

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