Marble Factory, Bristol, 17/11/21
If you’re going to see Thomas Headon on tour, chances are you bought your tickets in the first lockdown, and have patiently waited a year and a half, battling the reschedules, checking if you can even still make it, and figuring out who’s going to take the spare tickets you bought in “a missing gigs so desperately” trance. Well, here we are in November, and I started to believe that I’d never say it, but the tour is now mid-way through, with 21-year-old, singer songwriter (or ‘rockstar’ as he has been eager to reinforce as his occupation on social media) Thomas Headon, finally playing the Marble Factory in Bristol, last night.
The venue is a little chilly, as a result of it being an old warehouse (clue in the name), but it quickly warms up, as support act, fellow upcoming indie-pop artist, DYLAN, graces the stage with her empowering thematic female empowerment pop anthems. The crowd go crazy for her, screaming and calling out, whilst waving their phones above their heads trying to capture her electric stage presence. I forget at times that she’s only the support act.
At 9pm, Headon appears on stage, accompanied by drummer, Stella Alkan, and guitarist, Casper Miles, as the crowd go wild, screaming and cheering before the opening chords of Loving You can be heard. Headon has so much energy, bouncing around the stage and encouraging his growing fan base to do the same, that it’s really hard to imagine that this is only his first proper headline tour, and a mere three years ago, he was a teenager recording covers on YouTube to less than one hundred subscribers.
I guess this is the scenario “upcoming indie artist stuck in a global pandemic with no gigs and no real way of meeting fans” done right. Headon spent the year of uncertainty interacting with his fans via social media, alongside weekly livestreams and even zoom calls, to the point of knowing some by name. Tonight, he doesn’t hold back from carrying this on; stopping between every song to have a chat with the audience, whether to introduce the next numbers on the setlist, or to encourage everyone to go absolutely crazy. And go absolutely crazy, they do.
The crowd are equally as fun-loving, singing every word back to Headon, who smiles as if in utter disbelief. Headon announces mid-show that Bristol has been “so f*cking loud,” so much so that tonight’s crowd “were probably one of the loudest so far”, an announcement that provokes the loudest screams I think I’ve ever heard at a gig. It’s true - there are points where they even shout the spoken word, easier to miss lyrics, such as the “awesome” in Clean Me Up, and perfectly recount Grace’s conversation with her boyfriend, depicted in the track Grace (“I want to talk to you”, “Not now, later”). The best moment, however, is the call and response segment of Car Window, with the crowd, to anyone unfamiliar with the track, seemingly mocking Headon’s love life (“Maybe she’s thinking of me, too?” “I doubt it”). The atmosphere of the whole show feels so positive and friendly. Headon comes into the crowd during the middle eight of Butterflies, causing the crowd to surge forwards, whilst he addresses the 1,600 capacity area to get as close “to someone as you can, give them a hug, hold their hand, tell them you love them”, before removing his in-ears as the audience sing the words in unison back to him.
The show consists of a mixture of both old songs that have become familiar among Headon’s fanbase, thanks to his TikToks that gained popularity over lockdown, but also a full play through of his currently unreleased EP, Victoria, which is set for release on 11th March 2022. The first new song to be debuted is title track, Victoria, a tune that has the same vivid storytelling qualities of latest releases, Nobody Has To Know and Strawberry Kisses, and feels like it could’ve been a b-side on One Direction’s third studio album, Midnight Memories. Similarly, How Do I Know is an upbeat track that sees Thomas dancing around the stage more than before, standing up on Stella’s drum kit and encouraging the crowd to “get ready to f*cking move it”, before jumping off and running around like a child who has consumed too many blue smarties. The bonus track from the EP, Breakfast, is a slower track, that builds, as the drums kick in and the guitar gets heavier.
The setlist doesn’t just contain Thomas Headon’s own songs: there’s room for two covers tonight, and they’re two covers that I would never have expected to hear Thomas play live. The first is an acoustic rendition of Taylor Swift’s We Are Never Getting Back Together, an apt choice considering last Friday saw the re-release of her 2012 album, Red, in a bid to regain control over her masters, which comes directly after Carry On/Her, a heartbreaking, yet atmospheric mashup, designed to make you CRY. Despite its acoustic format, it doesn’t bring the vibe down at all. In fact, I think that this was one of the most energetic moments of the night. Arms are flailing everywhere, my phone is launched into the crowd and I spend a minute trying to retrieve it from the pit of young people dancing around to the nostalgic sonics. Headon’s acoustic is swapped for an electric telecaster for the second cover, Song 2 by Blur, providing a track that everyone knows, whether in this room on a random Wednesday night in November as a hardcore Thomas fan, a significant other to said hardcore Thomas fan, a plus one, or a parent.
An hour later, and we’re gearing up for the big finale. Seeing out the evening is UrbanAngel1999, the lead single from Headon’s last full-length release. Admittedly, he messes up the lyrics of the opening verse, which seems to momentarily throw off the avid gig goers, who appear to know every single word by heart, however, they quickly join in with the mismatched verses, and you’d never know anything had gone slightly off-piece. The enthusiasm is turned up a notch further (if humanely possible), as Headon invites the crowd for one last dance using one simple utterance (“Go!”), before doing the same, adopting a mixture between a Matty Healy/Harry Styles-esque stage presence in the process. It’s all over on a singular beat, and an elongated version of the closing line. Thomas takes a photo with the crowd, before exiting via stage left. The lights don’t come up for a few minutes, triggering the crowd to repeatedly chant Thomas’s name, holding onto the hope that he will re-emerge and offer up one last tune. However, he never does, and the house lights fade up. Luckily, almost to soften the blow of the show coming to an end, DYLAN and her band, including the drummer, whom the crowd essentially flirted with for ten minutes straight during the period in which the stage was being set for Thomas, wave from the amphitheatre-style mezzanine, which receives another huge reception from the audience.
Within the first moments of Thomas Headon stepping foot on the stage, it was obvious just how much he loves what he does, from his energy to his confidence that he oozes. It’s hard to imagine him doing anything other than performing on a stage. The crowd seem to adore the music just as much as he does, too, and this gives such a warm environment, and makes the gig feel even more intimate, despite the airy setting. The interactions give the illusion that you’ve known Thomas forever, making the whole experience feel just that bit more personal. If this is only his first major UK tour, I can’t wait to see where Thomas Headon will go next…