In an age where the likes of David Gray and James Blunt are oft hailed as the cream of the British crop, it’s refreshing to have a home-grown solo artist come along with his own rulebook, and a disdain for the formula that makes the competition so successful.
That’s not to say that Babylon and You’re Beautiful don’t have their place, but witnessing a live performance by Tom Vek – and it was a performance – made most of the overly safe, Radio 2 friendly fodder pale into insignificance.
Vek’s music is hard to pigeonhole, possessing elements of rock, funk, electro and dance, with influences ranging from Talking Heads to The Smashing Pumpkins. The net result is something fairly unique, with every track sounding entirely different to the next, a trait that has lead many to label him as the new Beck.
Making a name for himself earlier this year with the release of his debut album We Have Sound, tonight’s performance in Nottingham was the fourth date on a 14 stop, end of year tour of the UK, effectively a celebration of the record’s success. With his full backing band on side, an extensive light display and different support every night, these are events not to be missed. And throughout the 13-song set, there was little evidence to counter this claim.
As you would expect, the bulk of the material was drawn from the album (The words ‘We Have Sound’ appeared in illuminated form to provide a visually pleasing backdrop), with all but one song given an airing. The band overcame some early technical problems with the sound to sail through A Little Word In Your Ear, with Vek proving to be an animated and charismatic singer on the song’s frenzied conclusion. Early single If You Want was another highlight, with its insistent, almost hypnotic rhythm inducing a fair amount of head nodding around the venue.
Vek’s voice’s is an instrument in itself, something that he amply displayed this evening. It is able to reach pitches on both ends of the spectrum almost as mood would dictate, it seems. Whether it was the deadpan delivery of C-C (You Set The Fire In Me), the carefully adopted drone of If I Had Changed My Mind, or an occasional high-pitched falsetto, he seemed to have the tone pitch perfect.
Two new songs were showcased, both set to appear on forthcoming single Nothing But Green Lights. The second of these, One Horse Race, was especially memorable. An up-tempo, riff heavy number, it suggested that the future is a bright one for Vek, particularly if he is able to discard tracks of this quality as B-sides.
Closing with a riot inducing rendition of I Ain’t Saying My Goodbyes, his most orthodox pop-rock moment, it was a fitting end to an impressive display. We had it all – versatile singing, improvised dance moves aplenty, and perhaps most importantly, some fabulous songs. It’s a distinct possibility that Vek will remain a cult phenomenon, due to his eclectic and largely unconventional style, but given time and repeated listens, there’s few better solo artists operating today. And indeed, if he is to remain under rather than over ground, it will be a terrible shame.