Tom Misch came to a sold-out O2 Academy in Bristol on a mild Tuesday evening. The crowd was quite a mixed bag. As you may anticipate, there were a lot of boyfriends holding their girlfriends from behind and swaying, and a lot of young people, but there were also pockets of more middle-aged members of the audience, which is probably testament to the likeability and quality of Misch and his music.
Misch, who is quickly becoming the darling of our generation, promised a lot. Absolutely packed, he was greeted by a large roar as he walked out on stage, accompanied by a bass player and DJ. The academy is laid out with two balconies hanging over the standing crowd below and, indeed, people hanging over the balconies for a view of Misch. It is quite steep and creates a loud yet intimate atmosphere, something that seemed to overwhelm Misch when he first stepped out.
He started off the set with twinkling instrumental track The Journey, which was six parts attention-arresting and six parts self-indulgent. It certainly set the tone of the first half of the gig: vast, delicate chords offset by Misch’s dreamy vocals. He continued the set, early highlights being Colours of Freedom and It Runs Through Me, the latter met with screams from the first chords. It is a single released featuring hip-hop hall of famers De La Soul ahead of Misch’s upcoming album Geography, due to drop in early April.
It is about now that it is worth mentioning the sound quality of the gig. Whether it is the O2 Academy’s sound system, or Misch’s preference, something was quite different in the sound of the music when I heard it live. As the pace of the set picked up, the tone of the music was quite different to the studio counterparts. Of course, live music rarely sounds as polished or as well-mixed as the studio effort, but this is often part of the charm. The problem here was that instead of the smooth, traversing, drunk-funk grooves that propelled Misch from his room in South London to a UK and US tour, the audio came across as quite superficial, like an old disco tune.
It didn’t distract from the vocals or guitar-playing, but some of the beat-led songs were much less engulfing as a result. For instance, the song Movie, another single, didn’t sound nearly as good as I’d hoped. Soft, seductive, ‘love-making music’ according to rapper and friend Loyle Carner (more on him later), Movie is a favourite of mine, but hearing it live, mixed like a disco song, it was less smooth and encompassing, more abrupt and bouncy.
The set continued with a cover of Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely, which was, well, lovely, and it finished with an extended version of Falafel, which was brilliant. Compressing and expanding, it had the crowd captured.
Predictably, Misch then left the stage only to re-emerge a few moments later after cries of ‘encore’. He began to strum a couple of chords that were not instantly recognisable and could have gone anywhere. Anticipation grew before the beat dropped - Water Baby. Instantly recognisable, the crowd sang along to the hook. Singing turned to deafening screams as the aforementioned Loyle Carner leapt out to assist Misch in the encore. It was a lovely scene. Two mates on stage, a small sea of people jumping at them. He went on to play Crazy Dream, another Carner-Misch collab, before effectively leading us out with Watch Me Dance. It was a spectacular end to a good gig.
Although the tour ended last night in Birmingham, the album Geography comes out on April 6th and Tom Misch is sure to be featuring on a lot of festival line ups this summer.
by Sam Mills