Having seen singer-songwriter Tom Grennan live 7 times over the past 18 months, I’ve had plenty of time to see our favourite Bedford lad develop his music and grow his audience. While currently noted for his collaborations with Chase and Status (All Goes Wrong) and Bugzy Malone (Memory Lane), solo Grennan is a growing force on radio and TV (not least the Sky Sports Premier League soundtrack) and 2018 is about to get even more magical for the man with the July release of his first album Lighting Matches.
As part of the pre-album release build up, this March 2018 Sheffield Leadmill gig sold out months ago and there was a huge buzz in the hall. It’s great to see Grennan pull newbies into live music and the signs of the gig-novice were plain to see. First, I managed to get to the packed bar in about 10 seconds without upsetting anyone (an old necessary student skill that has never deserted me unless the room is full of equally determined people hankering for a quick drink order before the battle rush to the front of the stage). I was content with a very central view about 4 rows back. Second came the overheard conversations that made me snigger (the dismissive “well I don’t know any of ‘em” as a couple thumbed through the list of forthcoming gigs, and the very drunk bloke who felt short changed as he imagined Grennan would be onstage the minute the clock struck 7:30, and would still be there at 11).
Tom Grennan came on stage a few minutes after time at 9:30, with his trademark round dark glasses, loafers and high leg trousers, every inch the rock star urging his audience to make more noise while lapping up the tumultuous welcome. As always, our man was in absolutely fine melodic gravel voice throughout what I would describe as a transitional set; mixing up some of the earlier songs, such as Praying and Giving It All and of course, All Goes Wrong with some of the newer, more polished and sedate tunes from the forthcoming album, Lighting Matches. These included a couple of the recent singles Sober, and I Might and a couple yet to be officially released tracks. Behind our man was the stable session crew such as Howard Eastwood on keys and Julia Lamb on bass, and this time with the addition of a couple of women backing vocalists to add more layer to the music.
While the new Grennan music might just be subtly more mainstream made radio friendly it’s impossible to rub any edges off the man himself. Grennan has an irrepressible character and it was clear he was out to enjoy himself tonight; egging the audience to sing along, to light up their phones, and generally lose their nut. As Grennan thanked the audience part way through the performance; “not many lads from Bedford get to do this kind of thing”. Anyone offended by the f-bomb wouldn’t last a minute in Grennan’s company.
While I missed a couple of the old songs, Tom Grennan didn’t disappoint in the slightest. His voice was pitch perfect and the tempo a good mix of the more lively with the slightly sorrowful. The emotion in the songs shone through and he had the audience enwrapped. On my first couple of gigs seeing Tom, he took time out to chat with all of the people who had turned up to see him. I found him a friendly very natural bloke with an easy smile. Of course, Tom can’t do that with all of the many hundreds of people who turn up to his shows these days, but nevertheless as the Twitter and Instagram photos show, he still took time out to meet the crowd and join a few selfies. At the end of the show the confident Grennan explained this was the bit where he walks off for a few moments, everyone cheers for more, and he does another song to close. Of course it had to be an old favourite “Something in the Water” done Grennan live style with some class show-off musical note holding just because he can. Our man deserved a little swagger.
Grennan is pretty tireless in his pursuit of his “Number 1” album and led a chant at the end while his crew and regular backing band looked on. This March Sheffield Leadmill performance came at the end of a short UK tour, but which had quickly followed a Europe excursion and prior to a flying visit to the US. Say what you like about Tom Grennan but he is nothing but a dedicated and busy bunny.
After various summer festival appearances lined up, Tom Grennan is touring again in October, with another hike up the venue notch to the likes of the O2 arenas with tickets on sale very shortly. Meanwhile content yourself in the rosy anticipation of a bit of shiny signed red vinyl for his forthcoming album from his official website.