Thursday 7 December 2023

Tom A Smith / Jack Valero / Tom Abisgold - Manchester Deaf Institute Lodge - 6th December 2023

Sold out months in advance Tom A Smith brought his tour to The Lodge of Deaf Institute in Manchester on Wednesday. Wielding an impressive set of songs and a razor sharp live performance he marked himself out as very much an artist to watch develop and grow in 2024. Support came from Jack Valero and Tom Abisgold.

Tom Abisgold opens the evening and is a potential star in the making. An absurdly confident front man, unafraid to jump from rapping to singing, encouraging a filling up room to participate like they're at the biggest stadium show. With just a guitar, drums and a set of well-chosen samples he turns an intimate space into something that feels a lot bigger. His cover of Beyonce's Crazy In Love is inventive and different, but it's his own songs - in particular Died At 18 and Soggy Cigarette - that stand out. In fact the only time the energy and pace drops is when he plays a number solo just with guitar, but Worst Of You showcases an other side to him, more thoughtful and intense. It's a thoroughly enjoyable opening to a really talented line-up on show.

Jack Valero tells us Manchester is almost his second home confessing a love of drunken nights in Crazy Pedro's and it feels like there's quite a few in the room familiar with the former RPMs frontman as he delivers and impressive half-hour set accompanied by his excellent band and backing vocalist (who don't get introduced and whose names appear elusive on social media). The combination of male and female vocals are when these songs are at their best giving them a lift and standing them out from your standard indie fare. The politically charged Pull Back The Hammer and Temporary Helplessness, both taken from his most recent This Is A Nightmare EP, are the stand-out tracks of a set that's well structured and builds, drawing in the audience as it goes leaving a really positive impression.

It feels like Tom A Smith has been around a lifetime already. He's a world on of course from the young kid doing covers recorded at home and this mammoth thirty-date tour is setting up for national domination in the coming years with a raft of sold-out signs hanging on venue doors including this one that was sold out months ago. Accompanied by Dylan on guitar and keys, Frazer on drums and Katie on bass, they've become a very tight-knit band without losing the fluidity and excitement in youth as they deliver a set full of tracks taken from Tom's three EPs as well as some of the demo collections they've stealth released over the past few months. 

The setlist is therefore full of more than a debut album's worth of killer tunes - from Toronto, Could I Live With Being Fake, Little Bits, Weirdo, his most recent single Fading Away, Like You Do and set-closer Dragonfly - that you could lift out of the intimate surroundings of the lodge and put in big halls and open spaces as he proved during an impressive run of outdoor summer support slots. The wonderfully titled The Worst Is Still To Come shows that he can also do the solo stuff as the band take a well-deserved break, just as The Pale White kick off their set in the room above, but unperturbed Tom continues.

He's developed massively as a showman over the years, encouraging and getting crowd participation, joking about the forthcoming Sunderland (his home town) versus Newcastle FA Cup tie without antagonising anyone in the crowd and drawing people in with his engaging personality and the undeniable quality of the songs that never dips over the course of the hour and a bit he's on stage. With a great camaraderie and chemistry between his band he's poised to capitalise on the fan base he's built up with relentless touring throughout 2023 with the songs already at his disposal and his seemingly insatiable desire to create more.

Jack Valero's website can be found here and he is on Facebook and Twitter.

Tom A Smith's website can be found here and he is on Facebook and Twitter.

He plays Middlesbrough Empire (December 7) and Sunderland The Fire Station (8/9).


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