BBC Sound of 2017 nominee and Insanity Record artist Tom Grennan recently took to the stage at KOKO Camden on Wednesday, September 27, for his London headline concert. There was soul from the start, both from his personality and style, he opened in blackout, singing acapella his voice vibrating throughout the levels of the venue.
He began with “Royal Highness” – dressed in a suit, he looked classy yet chic. He opened the show with real groove, it was punchy and fun even as the song’s breakdown became very chilled, oozing those sunday vibes as he ad libbed his way through effortlessly.
The boozy crowd were excited from the get go, exploding into cheers and applause as the lights came up at the end of the track. It was though he was the beating heart of a party, exclaiming what he was seeing from the stage and the fan reaction was ‘absolutely mental’.
Tom went on to plug the pre-order for his debut album (Out on March 9, 2018) and introduced a new track “Lighting Matches“. His stage presence was effortless and his showmanship was far beyond his 22 years, it was though he has been performing to crowds like this all his life, his confidence faultless.
The lights transitioned from a red to a teal spotlight as he introduced his track “Old Songs“. It was simplistic with an almost folk style opening, taking it back to basics with just him and an acoustic guitar, his vocals were gritty and his songwriting truthful.
He could work the crowd with every song, his strong personality made the show entertaining through all the track transitions. He apologised for his ‘potty mouth’ but treated the audience like they were his mates with cheeky banter that coincided with his overall image and vision as an artist.
Although he gave off a confident character, the next track “Lucky Ones” reflected so much more and revealed a more sentimental side, his vocals soared and the addition of the strings created an epic atmosphere, reminding me of the penultimate moment in a film where two lovers are reunited, it’s so perfectly sync-able.
Between tracks, he spoke to the fans constantly, humour coming to him so naturally. You could see how truly grounded and grateful he was, thanking the audience for allowing him to continue growing in venue size as he joked “its the only place I can grow an inch”. You can see that Tom Grennan is on the verge of making his break in the industry exclaiming “This next ones a banger so lets ‘av it” as the band behind him erupted into a heat-pounding groove.
I felt the track really reflected his personality, the orchestral additions and backing vocalists adding to the immense production. The brass section infused the jazz style influences, it was fun and smooth his raspy vocals adding a slight rock feel, he combines a number of genres within his style which is definitely his unique selling point as an artist. As a whole the rising talent of male artists breaking through into the industry at the moment is really special.
It is without a doubt that Grennan has honed his sound, the next track “Giving It All” is a popular track from his EP Releasing The Brakes and was an obvious crowd favourite.
He has the perfect balance between the modernism of laid back and effortlessly cool vocals of someone like Rag’N’Bone man combined with soulful and bluesy influences of ‘St. Paul and the Broken Bones’. He worked the tiered venue of KOKO so fluently, the crowd were constantly at ease and he would fit so perfectly in a venue such as Ronnie Scott’s which would allow the audience to get up close and personal.
I cannot emphasise enough, his ability to work the stage and the crowd. It was as though he had walked out at his own party, and that it was about treating his guests, not about eyes being on him. However he has a head-turning presence, I could imagine he oozed positivity as he entered any room, it was undeniably electric.
Next was the song that arguably gained his recognition in the industry. “All Goes Wrong” originally with Chase and Status, however he performed a beautifully orchestral version, the arrangement thought through so carefully from instrumentation to the dimly lit yellow lighting. He was loving life as the volcanic call and response from the audience echoed around KOKO and gave off an authentic gang vocal backing support.
He went for the traditional encore style but laid it out on the table, bantering as he exclaimed “I’m gonna go off stage and then come back because you know thats gonna happen”, the crowd cheering in response. Everyone was soaking the atmosphere surrounding them, a few beverages certainly been drunk at this point, the crowd was tipsy as everyone sung back to his next track “Praying“.
I felt like he had climbed on the table at a house party, entertaining his mates. The excited crowd began shouting ‘we want more’ as he returned backstage after a blackout. He returned to deafening celebrations, his fans not faltering with enthusiasm at any moment.
He returned with “Sweet Hallelujah” dedicating it to a fan who had flow from Korea to see him. It was stripped back and gritty. It felt really authentic, his whole persona so natural and not a production of his label. His distinctive vocals flying high ringing out magically across the venue, the lights came up across standing, revealing the crowd as he held the final note, the crowd respecting his talent and performance with admirable cheers.
Next was his feisty, punchy track “Found What I’ve Been Looking For” the drums really at the forefront driving the track forward. He got out his phone to snapchat the crowd showing his fun youthful side, just a quirky 22 year old enjoying an amazing opportunity and continuing on the party.
You could tell he was a real family guy shouting out to his Dad and Grandma, as he said “I’m flying the Grennan flag, I’ve got my name on the merch”. He thanked his band before finishing on “Something In The Water“, his most streamed track on Spotify. It was a real crowd pleaser, as he belted out his vocals and the crowd held their torch lights in the air. The band came together in unison smashing out an epic finisher as he banged his chest in rowdy excitement on the last note.
It is without a doubt that, with his charm and outgoing personality combined with his diverse vocal range and talent, Tom Grennan will have a successful solo career. The gig allowed his dedicated fans to see how far he has already come whilst also giving them a taste of his future, before the release of his debut album in March.
If you want some groove, some soul and a large amount of banter Tom Grennan should be on your radar. His indisputable stage presence will guide him through his exciting future within the industry. Keep tabs on Grennan on Facebook, Twitter and his website.
Setlist: Royal Highness / Make ‘em Like You / Lighting Matches / Old Songs / Lucky Ones / Aboard / Giving It All / Run in the Rain / Barbed Wire / All Goes Wrong / Praying / Sweet Hallelujah / Found What I’ve Been Looking For / Something in the Water
Words by Jodie Brunning