Gig Review: Tom A. Smith at The Chameleon

Words: Karl Blakesley
Photos: Nigel King
Friday 17 November 2023
reading time: min, words

At nineteen years old, most musicians are only just getting started in their music careers – but Tom A. Smith is not most musicians. The young singer-songwriter from Sunderland was born practically with a guitar in his hand, learning how to play from the age of four and then incredibly playing his first ever gig at The Cluny in Newcastle, aged just eight years old. Eleven years on from that monumental first gig, we went to catch him at The Chameleon as part of his mammoth 34-date UK tour...

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Although our tickets state 8pm for doors, we arrive to the upstairs room at The Chameleon with a nineteen-year-old Tom’s set already in full swing. It’s not A. Smith yet though, but Cheshire singer-songwriter and former Britain’s Got Talent contestant, Tom Abisgold.

He gets the crowd’s vocal cords warmed up early, with singalongs for Super College Kids, Died at 18 and Worst of You. However, it’s his surprise barnstorming cover of Beyoncé’s Crazy In Love that really gets the crowd moving, before he closes a memorable support slot with the bluesy guitars of forthcoming single, Soggy Cigarette.

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Next up is Halifax duo Wax Tree Cast, who win the style contest for the night thanks to the matching hot pink shirts of guitarist Blair Murray and frontwoman Oolagh Hodgson.

They shred through their set that includes singles Oliver Reed and Fizzed Up, as well as unreleased tracks Class of 91 and Argue Like I Love You. The latter is a particularly epic finale as Blair Murray (who is looking slightly like a cross between Richard Hawley and Wolverine with his cool quiff and sideburns combo) stands stoic at the front, blankly staring into the crowd as he tears through a blistering guitar crescendo.

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It's then time for the evening’s headliner, as Tom A. Smith and his band take to the stage with the crowd already chanting his name before he’s played a note. He starts big, firstly with popular single Could I Live With Being Fake? before moving into Toronto with its big bassline and swaggering guitars. He then completes the opening trio of EP2 cuts with Man Overboard, which has the crowd loudly helping him out on the chorus.

Tom then comically comments on The Chameleon’s flat-floor setup, saying “I didn’t realise how short I was until I came here – we should order everyone from smallest to largest, I can’t see past the front row!” This segways into some lesser-known cuts, Losing My Grip from his recent demos release and Starting Over, which Tom explains was an audience request from the previous night – as it turns out, the same audience member from Liverpool is in again tonight. 

“Whose up for a singalong?” he asks, before storming through big-hitters Wolves, Little Bits and Weirdo, with some of the crowd putting their arms around each other and jumping up-and-down as they belt out the words along with him. It seems some are getting a little too into it, as he hilariously exclaims “F**king hell, someone’s loud!” at the end.

Things are then taken down a notch with The Worst Is Still To Come, one that Tom says “we’ve not played live much, as we’ve been trying to sort the arrangement.” They’ve definitely sorted it now, as the minimal instrumentation really gives Tom’s vocals a moment to shine.

The evening then sadly hits a momentary hitch, as Tom’s solo performance of Boltcutters is ruined by constant chatter from some drunk, disruptive audience members, who are then thankfully escorted from the room. It’s perfect timing too, as it means the stripped-back performance of I’d love to feel happy before I feel old is spine-tinglingly performed to near-pindrop silence from the attentive crowd, with Tom himself visibly emotional too. A moment worth the price of admission alone.

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The band then rejoin Tom for most recent single Fading Away, before Tom Abisgold also returns to the stage to play guitar on a triumphant performance of much-loved anthem, Never Good Enough. After a shoutout to Miles Kane and a performance of their track Like You Do, Tom’s notice that his next song is his last is greeted by boos. “Just come to another show, there’s 34 of them” he wittily replies, before finishing strong and giving the audience one final singalong with Dragonfly.

He may only be nineteen years old, but it is clear that Tom A. Smith is already well on his way to superstardom. Having already built a devoted fanbase who follow him around and know the words to all his songs, this mammoth tour all over the UK will no doubt earn him a few more along the way if he keeps performing to this standard. Next stop Rock City? I’d bet on it.

Tom A. Smith performed at The Chameleon on 15 November 2023

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