Review by Carolyn Brown with Photography by Bianca Barrett

We meet Tom Walker exactly halfway through his biggest tour to date and wait in anticipation to see what the singer-songwriter has brought to the table this time. It’s been just over a year since we were last left melodically satisfied from his exceptionally promising performance at The Sunflower Lounge, not even a 15 minute walk away from where we stand at the O2 Institute in Birmingham. It’s fair to say that since then Tom has nabbed some great achievements. From releasing his first EP, to playing at Glastonbury festival and Radio City Hall in New York his worldly presence and intriguing music has captivated a huge audience and it’s no surprise the tour is sold out.

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Reminding myself of how I felt last time I experienced his live performance; captivated and impressed by his musical maturity, I wondered how his epically crazy year and modestly bigger venue would cause him to differ. There were a few indicators that suggested I would not leave feeling disappointed before he even set foot on stage. The audience, made up of mostly (but not exclusively) twenty-something year olds were passionate and excited; cries from the sardine packed room (which had people crammed right up to the top of the stairwells) were enough to provide confidence that I was about to be blown away yet again.

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Tension builds as Tom’s band, welcome him with an enticing and powerful prologue which magically set the tone for the rest of the show. Tom strides on to the stage to his big entrance; sporting a casual but stylish bomber jacket and fisherman beanie, he has an instantly likeable demeanor. Tom leaps right in, showing off his pure raw talent in explosive first song, Be Myself. His gravelly yet powerhouse voice seems effortless and has far more layers and emotional energy than his recordings. Without want of slating his recordings which are far from bland, to know Tom as a live performer is far more refreshing and rewarding; there is a big punch in his performance which you don’t always get from listening to him in the office on Radio 1.

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During his performance of Heartland, I imagined it being played as a soundtrack to some sort of dark heartbreaker/thriller movie in which drama starts to unfold or lies start to uncover. Maybe I’ve got a vivid imagination, watch too much TV or maybe it’s Walker’s incredible ability to evoke a sense of narrative and paint emotional stories with his lyrics and melodies and of course his complete dedication to every word he is singing. His rhythmic movements show how completely invested he is personally to his songs.

With a small break from his singing, Tom asks “Birmingham how you doing?” and continues to introduce his next song, Dominoes, which is taken off his yet-to-be-completed album. He cheekily promises “it’s coming in September, I just need to finish it”, a bit like a uni student who has constantly being nagged on when he will hand in his project. He appears charming, relatable but a few responses from the crowd suggest they are impatiently waiting for this magical album to finally materialise.

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Dominoes which is a powerful tune, fluidly leads on to his next song with a beautiful instrumental and as he begins to sing Fly Away With Me. There are screams and cries from the crowd who intensely and devotingly sing along. It’s clear his has an invested fan base.

He jokes around with a crowd a little more, claiming the water he is drinking is pure vodka, before setting a slightly more serious tone as he tells the story of a missing person in his life. This leads into Cry Out.

His song, Karma, was a favourite of Bianca and I’s, although we hadn’t heard it before, the catchy riffs, awesome guitar solo (yes, he’s also a brilliant guitarist) and insane input from his drummer were enough to leave us obsessed.

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Tom introduces us to his new guitar, which he named ‘Barry’. He explained the death of his old guitar, Pete (who I remembered from his Sunflower Lounge performance), and the tragic accident that occured when Pete was run over by a bus after falling from an airport trailer. R.I.P Pete. I guess this helped him adopt his ‘take every day as it comes’ outlook on life, which he continued to talk about as he had to stop to retune Barry!

Things turned acoustic and slower paced for Blessings, in which his devoted audience even finished his sentences. I noticed his drummer, also singing along (he didn’t know I was looking), which I thought was cute. After, he made a shout out to two audience members, Sophie and Alistair who apparently used his next song, Just You and I for their first dance. During the performance, a girl (who I assume was Sophie) passionately sang along whilst on the shoulders of who I assume was Alistair. The rest of the Set with finished with personal favourite, Play Dead, and Rapture.

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Tom’s encore was amazing. Consisting of his new song Angels, which I believe will be his next single on radio and Spotify. Leave A Light On, claimed to be a story of a friend who found himself in a mentally dark place. His rendition of Leave A Light On was electrifying; a brilliant and lengthened version of his record which introduced peaks and troughs of softer piano elements and heavy beat drops.

Overall, Tom’s progression to the slightly bigger stage and venue felt natural and appropriate, if not to mention well deserved. His character was as charming as ever and his performance was emotional. I’m so excited to see where his musical talent will take him next, I expect it will be to many new and amazing places. I one hundred times recommend experiencing him as a live performer and can’t wait to see him when he comes round again to promote his long awaited album.

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