sat 20/04/2024

Tom Webber, The Hope and Anchor review - a fresh nod to the past | reviews, news & interviews

Tom Webber, The Hope and Anchor review - a fresh nod to the past

Tom Webber, The Hope and Anchor review - a fresh nod to the past

Catchy power pop in London's temple of pub rock

Tom Webber, solo at the Hope and Anchor

Thursday night at Islington’s legendary Hope and Anchor:  a challenging time and place to get an audience going, not least following the very assured edgy-yet-sweet singer-songwriter Daisy Veacock, another newish-kid-on-the-block on the edge of the recognition so many young artists yearn for.

Tom Webber, the boy-wonder from Didcot, now a fully-grown man, is clearly a little nervous, and it takes him a few songs to really get into his crowd-winning magic stride. The new material, four out of six in the early part of the set - need more running in, and placing them at the opening, nerves getting in the way of his usual relaxed charm, compounds the sense of a take off waiting to happen.   When he does throw in some more familiar material, “Face in the Crowd”, for instance,which references his Didcot origins, or the gorgeous ballad “Snowbird”, he’s firmly in control again, his voice opening up to the fullness that has grown so well over the past year, that touch of macho that appealingly treads the line between vulnerability and self-assertion.

“I Am What I Am” is probably his most personal song – we could perhaps do with more of them – is an anthem of resistance against being pigeon-holed as a retro singer. We can all relate to the challenge faced by the pressure to please, to be “in”, surfing the wave of what’s fashionable. Tom Webber has resolutely followed his own path, and drawn on a heritage that includes the best of British pop, 60’s soul and country. In many ways, being rooted in past riches - echoes the power-pop, well-crafted short songs of the pub rock that graced the Hope and Anchor in the late 1970’s – is Webber’s trademark, “new retro” as someone wrote recently. Not surprising perhaps that Tom’s drummer – who was not in attendance on this night, as Webber was solo – is Nick Lowe’s son, and one of his present backers, Paul Conroy, the former manager of the Kursaal Flyers and General Manager at Stiff Records.

Apologising, as he perhaps did a little too much – though it is endearing, and very English – that he was a piano novice, Webber did the McCartney hit for Badfinger “Come and Get It” at the keyboard, followed by the best of his new songs, “Good Intentions”, once again exploring his own vulnerability, with a light touch and no trace of self-pity. Then he really took off with his current new release “This Time”. It’s a catchy feel-good tune, with plenty of hooks, bears endless repeats and invites singing along: it deserves to be a hit.

“Martha”, the song that brought Tom to wider attention, follows.  As with “This Time”, the song demonstrates that he can definitely write hits. Here, chameleon that he still is, not quite having settled into a consistent persona, he channels Sam Cooke, with a blue-eyed soul voice full of sweetness and that slight Cooke rasp.  His voice has matured, as well as his confidence.  A self-assurance that grows as the set unfolds and comes to a close and he feeds off the audience’s enthusiastic reception. The song “Howling at the Moon” gets everyone moving – it’s one for dancing and letting go. The chameleon can rock as much as he can croon, and that’s not a bad sign at all. A good time was had by all.


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