Tom Krell has a pretty unassuming look to him. When he walked on stage, he had the look of a guy who wandered into an American Idol audition area, who might get ripped up by the panel and Randy Jackson might not even get a chance to call him ‘dawg’ once. Meek and soft spoken, he thanked the crowd for coming before trying to get the tech team to kill the ‘cop lights’ in the venue. In fact, his battle with the house lights was an early indication of how much he cared about the visual element of the performance. Clearly some effort had been put effort into the visualization being projected on stage, and the complete lack of house or stage lights really accentuated the atmosphere of the show. This all led into opener Suicide Dream 2, off his 2010 album ‘Love Remains’. This was followed by what I believe to be a cover of Ashanti’s ‘Foolish’, which I only caught onto late in the song when I noticed that Tom was having trouble keeping a straight face while singing the track. Maybe it was the fact that he was singing lyrics originally written by a dude who was in Blackstreet that made it difficult to not crack a smile, I don’t know. The crowd did not give the thunderous applause deserved of an Ashanti cover, though maybe they were waiting for ‘Always On Time’ and didn’t want to jump the gun.
His live performance comes off as a step forward from ‘Love Remains’. There’s still the same lo-fi approach. The ethereal tones he does (and doesn’t) hit on the album, are all largely here live too. But his voice is even more haunting and indelible as you’ve ever heard it on record. He doesn’t hold back live, and doesn’t shy away from the crazy high notes he pulls off frequently on record. As he weaves between new and old material, it becomes clear that the tracks that incorporate his band members are the most focused and effective. The mix of electronic beats, guitar, and violin brought by locals Aaron Read and Cameron Reed (not brothers I’m told) help shape Tom’s voice into something more powerful, and the ‘full band’ element is where the performance is strongest. Clearly an effort has been made to transform what essentially started as a bedroom side project, into a full fledged live performance. And him and the band pull it off.
Then we get to the end of the show, and easily my favourite thing about last night. I wrote about it last week when he released a new mixtape. That damn R. Kelly cover. Maybe I’m just a sucker for this song, but when he casually broke into ‘I Wish’ last night, I wanted to simultaneously laugh/cry/dance. As the show began to wind down, I still had this track stuck in my head. This followed me all the way home, which resulted in a 2AM R. Kelly record blasting session in my living room, which I’m sure my neighbours appreciated. They can blame How To Dress Well.
posted by: @Shoemosher