Tom Grennan took to the stage at O2 Academy Brixton, and through technology (VR) the audience watched from home. But is it the future of gigs?
The loading screen fades to black and light slowly eases into sight. Underneath stands one man, and six strings. ‘Sweet Hallelujah’ – a soft, acoustic number from the album ‘Lighting Matches’ starts playing, and Tom Grennan was, in my eyes, standing six feet away from me, belting out words to an empty Brixton Academy.
The aforementioned venue has seldom seen a gig quite like this before. This was miles away from the Instagram live videos with an acoustic guitar, and dodgy internet connections. The show mirrored the production value of a large-scale live TV show with multiple 360° cameras scattered all over the stage, in the balcony, and at the back of the deserted standing area. The performance streamed live via the MelodyVR app, was broadcast in virtual reality to phones, tablets, and Daft Punk-esque headsets all over the world.
I felt the best way to watch the show was through the ‘Director’s Cut’ setting. Obviously being controlled by a producer, the camera would pan to the best angles to see what was happening at the time. Between songs, Grennan would often address the camera directly, often prompting for the viewer to get up and dance or more specifically, ‘get a beer in, wine in, or even an Aperol Spritz…if you’re posh’. ‘Royal Highness’ and ‘Amen’ provided the fast tempo for the show, not unfamiliar to Tom’s fans.
As I sat, gently nodding my head to the beat of ‘Barbed Wire’ and recent single ‘This Is The Place’, I couldn’t help but notice the lighting effects; Laser-beams, strobe effects, and the like are something that maybe, whilst present at a sweaty, fast-paced, ‘normal’ gig, we wouldn’t notice. However, via the medium of the screen, the lighting provided a beautiful and exciting backdrop to the music pouring out of my phone. Whoever was in charge of the lights deserved a huge amount of credit.
The performance coincided with multiple exciting announcements for the Bedfordshire native. His new gospel-influenced single, ‘Amen’, arrived on streaming platforms that same day and he announced his new album ‘Evering Road’ (due for release on March 5, 2021). He also, over the weekend, has announced a European tour – Covid-permitting – scheduled for April of next year.
Due to some technical issues, I, unfortunately, missed ‘All Goes Wrong.’ ‘Oh Please,’ and ‘Little By Little Love.’ However, after finally battling through server error messages, and switching between 4G and WiFi, I managed to log back in to hear the end of ‘Sober’ – the first song of his that I ever heard – fairly fitting, I thought.
Despite promises of it, the only unreleased song on the setlist was ‘I Don’t Need A Reason To Love You.’ A great number, which gives hope to fans of the quality of the second album – however, the three singles released already show that it promises to match up to ‘Lighting Matches.’
He finished with, unarguably his most popular song, ‘Found What I’ve Been Looking For’, and ‘Something In The Water’ – a typical way for a Grennan set to end and, a perfect way. A different kind of energy poured out in these songs and it oozed passion.
Overall, the virtual gig was really well put on, and looked amazing as well as sounding great. Grennan’s voice sounded like it was on another level, and the always cheeky 25-year-old reveled in the chance to interact with the viewers even more. Of course, we all want in-person gigs to come back as soon as possible. However, this performance, and others like it, have certainly shown that there is a way to enjoy live music, even during these strange times.