Review: Tom Walker @ The Deaf Institute, Manchester

With a Brit in his back pocket and a debut album fresh on the shelves you’d say What a Time to Be Alive for Tom Walker as he stunned a lucky set of fans at an exclusive Hits Radio gig at the Deaf Institute. 

The 27-year-old, who won the Best British Breakthrough Act in February, returned once again to the city in which he was raised with a mix of popular hits and new album material to a select few at the famous intimate venue. 

The honorary Mancunian came to the stage amidst a rapturous crescendo of sound from his band as he belted out one of his earlier songs Fly With Me comfortably encapsulating to many just what Tom Walker is about. 

Starting with a bang, Walker introduced himself to the crowd as he made reference to a fantastic few weeks that had seen him win a Brit, release a debut album and pop the question to long term girlfriend Annie. 

Holding aloft a glass of wine, the self-professed maverick joked with the audience: “I used to play to 25 people and now I have a Brit Award,” as he geared up to his set on stage. 

He launched into his second heavily synthesised track My Way – which only emphasised his recognisable husky tones coupled with a brilliantly catchy chorus that acted as a real crowd pleaser. 

In the interval involving yet another guitar change – a signal to the artist’s clamour for perfection – the Brit Award winner made no bones about his desire to plug his new debut studio album What a Time to Be Alive, released on March 2.

He said: “Yeah the album’s good, you should buy it, seriously.”

Just as impressive as the singer’s likeability was his ability to completely switch the tone as he performed Blessings centre of the stage with total emphasis on where it all began – just a man with a guitar and a big dream.  

Walker’s well-documented struggles of homelessness and strife is no secret and preceding the track he spoke about the song’s context, recollecting how he wrote it during one of the most difficult periods of his life when he hadn’t a “penny to his name.”

With the audience quite simply hanging off his every word as a result, Walker brought an authenticity to the song – and it told as his persona beautifully transcended into the song as well as his next cover track Home Town Glory.   

Adding more depth to his backstory, Walker spoke about his grandmother who he credited as was one of his biggest inspirations in his life.  

Transitioning smoothly into his next track In The End, he explained how that, despite her adversities in life having made it through one failed marriage and overcoming cancer, she always reiterated that “love is all that matters,” only further adding to his validity with fans as he launched into another heartfelt solo. 

With the room now captivated by the passion on display, the tempo was upped as he played You and I which has proved a massive hit – at the time of writing it had nearly 10 million views on YouTube.

The penultimate tracks Angels and Not Giving In blended Walker’s eclectic genre mix of rock and pop as the venue’s strobe lighting was brought into its full blazing effect to onlookers.

Angels in particular was punchy, energetic and held down a firm rock beat that reverberated around the small venue living up to the ‘exclusive’ title that the gig had been given.  

Walker finished, quite expectedly, with his platinum single Leave a Light On, which itself was nominated for Best British single at the converted national awards. 

Met with a furore of noise as the singer made his bow for the evening, he reiterated: “Thank you Manchester, you’ve been great as always,” as he belted out his hit one last time. 

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