Tom Misch is clearly on a path to success. At just 22 years-old, the producer, singer and multi-instrumentalist is currently on a UK and Europe tour in the lead up to the release of Geography, his highly-anticipated debut album. He’s enjoyed huge support from his fans, whose enthusiasm led to his Leeds gig being upgraded to the O2 Academy, with Stylus unable to accommodate the demand.
The jazzy singer was supported by Poppy Ajudha, who seemed a perfect fit as she charmed the audience with her sultry, soulful tunes. ‘Spilling Into You’, a track from her recently-released EP FEMME, was a particular standout, her vocals highlighted by the minimal band comprised of just a keyboardist and bassist.
Kicking off the show with the instrumental ‘The Journey’ from Beat Tape 2, Misch exhibited a charm and disarming comfortableness, lending the room a relaxed vibe. This is what Misch excels at; his slow and mid-tempo tracks like ‘I Wish’ and ‘Movie’ are groovy, loungey tracks, translating perfectly from the studio versions. His smooth, buttery vocals seemed lifted straight from the recordings, evoking the same relaxed gliding emotions. Credit needs to be given to the tight, technically skilled band, with the added violin and saxophone lending some extra finesse to his fusion-jazz-r&b catalogue.
If anything could have been improved, it’s that Misch seems to have a fairly limited range. Nearly all the songs featured extended jazz-centric guitar solos which, though impressive, weren’t particularly special enough to prevent them from blending into one another. An instrumental dual-guitar cover of Stevie Wonder’s ‘Isn’t She Lovely’ got the crowd singing along, but, like his less distinguishable tracks, felt almost too casual and simple. These songs wouldn’t sound out of place on a Starbucks’ mid-day playlist. At his weakest, Misch struggles to make the most of his limited vocal range, and almost fades into the background; the crowd on occasion seemed disengaged, with enough pockets of conversation happening around the room to disrupt the chill vibes.
Still, at his best Misch manages to mix elements of jazz with genres like hip-hop and r&b which are more popular with young people. Crowd favourites like ‘Crazy Dream’, ‘South of the River’ and encore ‘Watch Me Dance’ set the room on fire, getting the crowd singing and dancing (at least as best they could in the jam-packed room). He’s got a knack for writing catchy songs without being reductive, and his ability to effortlessly blend together the most interesting parts of different genres clearly resonates with the genre-blurring streaming generation.
Feature image by Chloe Baker