THE GALLERY: Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18

THE GALLERY: Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

 

 

 

Words by Ed King / Pics by Eleanor Sutcliffe

This is a big gig.

It’s a big room too, as I watch the audience trickle in – from a line that stretches back to the Pagoda island roundabout, the 3009 capacity O2 Academy confidently fills up on a Sunday. No, mean, feat either. Especially in Birmingham. Especially on a Sunday.

But the Tom Odell love fest is in unarguable full swing tonight, as shoulder touches shoulder in the stalls and every polite space gets filled on the balcony. This gig wasn’t presented as ‘sold out’ but it hard to imagine any fire marshal letting another body in this room. This is a rafter packed affair. So I find my THE GALLERY: First support act for Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffecorner, nestle in, and watch the support acts.

First up is Mimi… I want to say ‘croissant’. Which I doubt it is, but I’ll have to Google and cross reference. Singing a mix of her own songs and covers, the ubiquitous ‘Valerie’ getting a non-X Factor audition airing, she delivers her “first gig playing my own songs,” with reputable aplomb. A young vocalist with an older guitar, time will tell. But art gather scars to shine, and only the world will give you them. TBC.

Next up is my happy surprise of the night, well the first one of them anyway, as no other that Max Jury struts on stage as the second support act. ‘Great American Novel’ is always somewhere near the back of my mind and on the tip of my tongue these days, and despite it not getting featured in his set I do get to see a man live on stage I thought I’d need to have passed through LAX security to watch up close in person.

THE GALLERY: Max Jury - supporting Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Jury is great too, and not just because I want him to be, but the slow Americana, blues, and drawl slides from his keyboard and across the room with the right touch of confidence and bliss. Musicians are made to impress, and Max Jury is one to applaud. Plus, I now (after a very subtle pitch) own a copy of his signature – so at worst I’m going to rinse hotel room bills in his name across Washington state until one of us gets noticed.

And now, it is time…

There has been a grand piano covered in black cloth ever since we walked into this room, with one support act playing to its left and the other to its right. But now it’s the main show, with the sleek polished veneer unveiled as the house lights go down and a single spot illuminates the piano and rounded stool. Like a tousled haired shadow, Tom Odell appears at the ivory and throws soft hammers onto hidden strings; we are welcomed with the title track off his new album – ‘Jubilee Road’ saunters in until a sustained vocal, raised hand, full band, and rapturous applause bring the main attraction crystal clear into view.

THE GALLERY: Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeI’ll be honest, I love the piano. I’m a sucker for the piano. But I’m often on my own with such sultry appreciation, as most 88 key diatribes fall short upon the ears of those less bruised. Or those more happy, I’ve never quite worked out which. But for Tom Odell, and the 3k+ that have turned out to see him tonight, this is not a concern, as the set moves without banter from the title track of his new album to the fifth single from his first – more sustained vocals, and the beginning of some simply heart-breaking audience participation, carry us into the main set.  This is a spectacular introduction.

Levels are up, chairs are thrown, and ‘Sparrow’ ends off a phenomenal beginning – as ‘Supposed to Be’ then leads us into an introduction of each band member, delivered like an homage to Robbie Robertson and his long bus riding companions. But this is an ensemble, regardless of the dominant and linchpin, with the ringmaster making every effort to bring his cohorts font and centre, leaving his black and white compadres to stand next to each instrument that accompanies them as he does so. This is a band on stage tonight, and we are firmly told not to forget that.

THE GALLERY: Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18 / Eleanor SutcliffeMy notes from the rest of the evening run from sycophantic to spider scrawl, both run induced. But there are a few golden markers that deserve a more sober mention – Tom Odell has the O2 Academy in his palm tonight, from start to finish. He makes a big room feel intimate, with unenforced sing-a-longs washing over us like warm blankets that you just want to weep inside of.

The first, according to my notebook, is with ‘Wrong Crowd’, where the bravest of us both onstage and off try to whistle along. But it continues, throughout, carried by an atmosphere that even this cynical writer can’t help but fall for. I had no idea the O2 Academy would be so full tonight, and I had no idea that the bodies within it would care so much. But by the time ‘Son of an Only Child’ is played, one of my favourites from the new album, I am bunched up with a line of strangers on the balcony – resting our hands on each other’s shoulders and basking in the soft lights of a moment’s unity. This is what music can do, and when it does it in a room of over three thousand people it’s a pretty fucking wonderful occasion.

We end with a good three song encore, which could easily have carried on if the licensing department of the UK’s second city weren’t such a loveless box of frogs. Even the Showsec security guard has left his post to stand and watch this finale.

And as the ensemble eventually leave the stage, to the echoes of ‘Magnetised’ being thrown back at them in an oddly grandiose yet sweet harmony, we all know that we bore witness to something special tonight.

 

 

 

Tom Odell @ O2 Academy 21.10.18 / Eleanor Sutcliffe

Gallery not found.

 

For more on Tom Odell, visit www.tomodell.com 

For more from Max Jury, visit www.maxjury.com 

For more from the O2 Academy, including full event listings and online ticket sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academybirmingham

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NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.

BREVIEW: Skate Kitchen @ Midlands Art Centre 12-17.10.18

BREVIEW: Skate Kitchen @ Midlands Art Centre 12-17.10.18Words by Ashleigh Goodwin

Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen is her sixth venture into the world of directing, and features a primarily female fronted cast, led by Rachelle Vinberg in her first feature length film. Vinberg plays Camille, an isolated teenager who enjoys nothing more than skateboarding and scrolling through her Instragram feed.

Upon following the female skateboarding collective ‘The Skate Kitchen’ closely on the platform, she attends one of their meet ups in NYC and quickly befriends them. From this Camille begins to navigate adolescence with her new friends in tow, as opposed to being alone with her mum in their suburban Long Island house.

I didn’t know what to except when going into the preview – organised by Film Hub Midlands in conjunction with Telford & Wrekin Council – having avoided researching the film until I was able to catch a screening. But I imagined it would be more of a documentary that focuses on the technical side of skateboarding. And despite this not being the forefront of the film, it was still woven successfully into the narrative to create a good balance of realism and fiction. You’re able to see that Moselle’s approach to the subject is authentic and well researched; indeed, the writer/director initially approached The Skate Kitchen girls after seeing them on the subway and was curious to know more, which is what spawned the making of the eponymous film.

At its core though, Skate Kitchen is not just a skateboarding documentary or drama piece but a modern coming of age film – one that is primarily (and successfully) directed towards females, as opposed to the relationship between them and their male peers which can often be the focus of such films. Although Skate Kitchen does touch upon this too.

Compiled of relative newcomers (apart from Jaden Smith), the cast is what makes Skate Kitchen unique and charming. The girls aren’t trying to fit into their assigned roles and the characters they play just seem like an extension of themselves, which makes sense given Moselle’s approach to the film. Due to the ease of their performances and how natural their chemistry is, it makes Skate Kitchen feel  authentic and intimate, like a fly on the wall witnessing real life conversations amongst a group of girlfriends. There are no weak performances within the cast, with each member bringing a distinct personality and something individual to the film. I felt this particularly extended to Janay (Ardelia Lovelace), whose character is played with such realism it almost felt like a documentary; Lovelace is really enjoyable and interesting to watch which makes it easy to invest, emphasise, and root for her throughout.

BREVIEW: Skate Kitchen @ Midlands Art Centre 12-17.10.18Skate Kitchen’s strengths go further than being well cast and directed; the film doesn’t just explore the world of females occupying the typically male dominated domain of skateboarding, but goes beyond that to incorporate the classic coming of age tropes in a fresh, modern way. This makes it accessible to those in their teenage years, especially female viewers.

Topics that are typically shied away from are spoken about and shown in length; scenes where Camille discusses periods, tampons, sexuality, and family relationships are dealt with frankly and with blunt honesty – mainly from Kurt (played affectionately and charismatically by Nina Moran). It’s through this approach that Skate Kitchen does the job of expelling and diminishing stigma around such natural issues, alerting audiences to the fact that these are simply normal.

Concepts such as fractured families, finding freedom, body dysmorphia, and first loves are also shown throughout the course of the film, but none of them feel underdeveloped or skimmed over, with all of them fitting comfortably within the film’s narrative.

The only pitfall is that despite having strong themes, it didn’t feel as though there was much of a definitive plot to Skate Kitchen. There was no big, main, end goal. But this doesn’t detract too much, as the film presents itself as more of an exploration of coming of age as opposed to a succinct story about it. In a way this even works to the film’s favour, as it makes it more true to life; Skate Kitchen still ends up where it needs to.

Although I did feel this issue diminished the opportunity to develop certain narratives, especially when it came to Camille’s relationship with her mum – played by Elizabeth Rodriguez (better known from her performance as Aleida Diaz in Orange is the New Black). At the beginning of the film, Camille’s mum is a constant on screen – banning her daughter from skating after she ‘credit cards’ herself on the board. Camille disregards this and, to add insult to injury, starts travelling to New York regularly to meet up and practice with the girls from The Skate Kitchen.

Halfway into the film their mother-daughter relationship is in pieces, but it suddenly becomes secondary and fades into the background with them only reconciling briefly on screen near the end. When they do reconcile it’s still touching, and the scenes of Camille holding her mum’s hand whilst guiding her precariously down the street on her board are some of my favourites from the whole film. Yet it would have been nice to see them resolve their issues in a full scene – or for the mum’s narrative to be woven in more evenly throughout the whole film, as opposed to heavily then not at all.

This point also extends to her relationship with The Skate Kitchen girls, after their explosive falling out near the end we don’t see them make up again and it would have been interesting to see how this played out on screen. Although, again, this isn’t necessarily a negative – this approach shows how insignificant and irrelevant teenage arguments can be in the grander scheme, and how things can go back to normal. Rather than showing a scene where they make up verbally, we end with shots of all the girls skating carefree down New York streets with nothing but music, shots of their boards, faces, and the city.

Overall, Skate Kitchen isn’t a film I will be eagerly waiting to re-watch, but I think it’s an important, heart warming, and entertaining film to put on your list. Also the influx of these films – namely ones that are female written and directed, and feature a female dominated cast – are important. They show a perspective not present in a lot of mainstream films and address issues or topics that are often missing too, especially amongst a female teenage or young adult audience – an agenda the UK distribution company for Skate Kitchen, Modern Films, has been working hard to promote.

The use of protagonists from different cultural, racial, and economic backgrounds is also a strong tool in storytelling, and allows film to be more readily accessible to a wider range of people. Not only that, but through sharing female experiences via film, audiences can find solace, solidarity, education and guidance that they may be lacking in the public sphere and it opens up a dialogue for certain issues and topics.

Diversity within film has always been important and although there is still a long way to go, with films like Skate Kitchen the future of fair representation does seem a little brighter.

Skate Kitchen – official trailer

Skate Kitchen (rated certificate 15) is out on general release, with screenings at Midlands Art Centre from 12th to 17th October. For more details, including a full programme schedule and links to online bookings, visit www.macbirmingham.co.uk/event/skate-kitchen-boarders 

For more from on Skate Kitchen, visit www.skatekitchen.co.uk

For more on Modern Films, visit www.modernfilms.com

For more on Film Hub Midlands, visit www.filmhubmidlands.org

For more on Midlands Art Centre, including venue details and further event listings, visit www.macbirmingham.co.uk

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NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.

ALBUM: Jubilee Road – Tom Odell 12.10.18

ALBUM: Jubilee Road – Tom Odell 12.10.18 / Pic courtesy of Columbia RecordsWords by Ed King / Pics courtesy of Columbia Records

This is a big record.

Although despite the grandeur that unfurls, Jubilee Road shuffles into the first and title track with gentle keys – setting the scene of Tom Odell’s own ‘Eleanor Rigby’ ode to London, albeit one with a sprinkle of Martin Amis. 

It’s been over two years since Odell’s last LP, and five since his debut. Not that we’re counting. But the staggering of artistic expression requires some chronology, and what do you do after your 88 fingers have been shaken, stamped on, and poked into screens across the pond and back again. Twice. You go home or you go big. Jubilee Road does both.

The album’s second track, and it’s lead single, the f-word infused ‘If You Wanna Love Somebody’ (even the radio play) continues to ramp things up – bringing a gospel undercurrent to a Jackson Browne flavored call to the heart. It’s a little obvious, to a cynic like myself, but I can see it covered in enough Christmas and Jamie Cullem sideways glances to do alright without me.

Then the storytelling returns with ‘Son of an Only Child’, in a track the seethes with what I can only presume is honesty. Or a fucking, good, lie. I’ll admit, it’s my favourite from the album – due in part to a steady melody that grows from a shadow to a monster, but more so because I know that bar. I know me in that bar, listening to that man and forming cannonballs to throw at strangers within reaching distance. I believe the frustration, the maudlin anger; I believe this track. So, I believe the album. Plus the lyrical hat tip to Taupin/John is a nice touch – and one better owned that brought to the floor by cynics like me.

Jubilee Road continues to bounce from self-effacing laments, to the dissection of a broken world we all tip toe through. Or round. Or away from. But the backbone of confident ivory, high octane vocals and visceral lyrics keeps this album from ever falling short – with the flows outweighing the ebbs in a comparison barrage of Tom Waits-meets-Elton John-at-a-Billy Joel-barbeque.

The obligatory label mate duet is well delivered on ‘Half as Good as You’, with Alice Merton sounding more like Florence Welch that Florence Welch. And even if Tom Odell is “tired of eating breakfast on my own,” it seems to make for some pretty good source material. Heaven help album four if the lad finds true love.

But the (second) best is saved until last, and whilst my mum is still alive I do have an older sister and the understanding of vicarious pride. Odell’s open diary/songbook is what makes Jubilee Road flourish and no more so than in its closing track, ‘Wedding Day’. It’s heartbreaking. It’s honest. It made me cry. And to round off my somewhat clunky framing technique, it’s the flashlight through the mist that sails this LP home.

‘Wedding Day – Tom Odell (live at Rough Trade NYC)

On Friday 12th October, Tom Odell releases Jubilee Road – out via Columbia Records. For more on Tom Odell, including link to online sales, visit www.tomodell.com

Tom Odell will be playing at the O2 Academy Birmingham on 21st October, as part of his Jubilee Road Tour. For more gig information, and links to online tickets sales, visit www.academymusicgroup.com/o2academybirmingham/tom-odell-tickets 

For more from Columbia Records, visit www.columbia.co.uk

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NOT NORMAL – NOT OK is a campaign to encourage safety and respect within live music venues, and to combat the culture of sexual assault and aggression – from dance floor to dressing room.

To sign up to NOT NORMAL – NOT OK, click here. To know more about the NOT NORMAL – NOT OK sticker campaign, click here.