Tonight, Tom Krell aka How To Dress Well, comes to Manchester for the second time- the first time, perhaps unfortunately, coincided with the unpredictable and un-called for riots that swept the nation – resulting in a show that had what can only be described as a “weird vibe”.
Tonight, the weird vibes have disappeared and the crowd has grown – the venue is busy without being overcrowded – and those in attendance are quietly attentive. Whereas on record, How To Dress Well could be considered a solo project, live Tom is accompanied by two men playing an array of keyboards, drum machines and violins. Things start very softly – Tom’s gentle yet soulful voice accompanied only by a quiet piano and violin immediately grabs your attention and lures you in before his voice reaches a soaring falsetto that takes you by surprise. It’s a voice that is strong enough to make an entire room go deathly silent and stay that way for nearly an hour (save for one bit of strange heckling that might not have even been a heckle at all, just a random vocal outburst from someone whose mind has gone to bits).
Things really get going as minimal beats and clicks are introduced alongside deep, lumbering bass to compliment the reverb-soaked falsetto that floods the room. What could be called a “TriAngle Records sound” – gothic, brooding slo-mo electronica – comes to the fore as the volume increases and the bass gets deeper. In contrast to the darkening mood of the music, nods to 90s r’n'b pop begin to creep in to the vocals (including an impressive Ashanti reference) making for an unusually haunting sound that feels both nostalgic and futuristic in equal measure.
As the set closes on two more upbeat songs which swell in volume and intensity, an impromptu encore showcases Tom’s impressive vocals again as he goes accapella – responding to a request from a fan on Twitter and dedicating the resulting unamplified song to him – proving to be a spellbinding climax to a grippingly original set.