The Wight Bear, Southbourne
Once twenty-year old singer-songwriter, Thomas Headon, has finished his set at intimate pub, The Wight Bear, situated in Southbourne, I find myself engaging in a conversation with him about my blog, and how I have previously written my thoughts on a couple of his tracks, and plan to review this afternoon’s show as soon as possible. To this, he is quick to ask me how he did and whether he has managed to score himself the prestigious five stars out of five; through laughter, I tell him yes, as ironically he talks quickly over me, asking if he “talked too much”.
That’s the main vibe that you will get from a Thomas Headon show – he has a very likeable and friendly personality that feels very natural, and shines through within seconds of meeting him.
This first impression then alters your perception of the show, making it feel more like a meet-up with an old friend, rather than a gig in a pub, on a Sunday afternoon, especially because Thomas is rather keen on interacting and joking around with the crowd as much as he possibly can.
The set opens with ‘Grace’, a song that has been a firm fan favourite since its release in 2019, and even features fans dancing alongside Thomas in the official music video. At first, it feels a little awkward, with members of the crowd unsure whether to sing along or not because of the close setting. There’s a lot of awkward eye-contact between Thomas and his audience; something that eventually ends up being pretty funny (but also a slight flaw, as if you suddenly come to the realisation that you don’t know every word, it very quickly becomes obvious).
In no time, the crowd begin to warm up and get into the swing of the set, thanks to ‘Car Window’; a song referencing the anxiety of seeing someone that you are attracted to, but know you’re never going to see again, and Thomas’s quick-witted humour (by trying to catch the now loudly singing audience out, by unexpectedly stopping his strumming and refusing to sing the chorus, to see who would be foolish enough to carry on – a game of musical chairs, but without the chairs, if you like).
Between songs, Thomas makes sure to have lengthy conversations with those who had come down to the sold-out affair, introducing himself, his guitarist (Casper Miles), members of his touring crew and pub staff, before joking that we should go around the room and take it in turns to introduce ourselves and where we are from. Many subjects are covered between tracks, across the show, from where everyone’s from (followed up by Thomas excitedly repeating the city names, and then admitting that he has absolutely no clue where they are), Melbourne (where Thomas is from), surfing, birthdays, jobs, college and schools, sleeping babies and cheating girlfriends, to the recurring joke that we are in Southbourne, and therefore, the tour t-shirts with ‘Bournemouth’ proudly printed on the back, were in fact incorrect (further leading to Thomas being informed that he is playing a show in Bournemouth later this year, much to his visible confusion). This further cements the view that this show is more like a circle time or a group therapy session, in comparison to an acoustic gig with an artist that is set to make it big.
The set finds the perfect balance between original tracks, future releases and covers from some of Thomas’s biggest influences, meaning that there is something for everyone to enjoy, and keeps the setlist fresh and unpredictable. Thomas’s rendition of absolute classic from indie band, The 1975, ‘Sex’, really gets the just over 30 capacity’s vocal cords warmed up, receiving one of the biggest receptions alongside covers of ‘Last Friday Night’ by Katy Perry, ‘Cherry’ by Harry Styles (It should also be noted that a table-top sized cardboard cut-out of the former boyband member joins Thomas as part of the set design) and the last-minute addition of ‘Chasing Cars’ by Snow Patrol. Notably included was ‘UrbanAngel1999’; the first taster of Thomas’s most recent full-length release, The Goodbye EP. As he plays, it’s amusing to see that even those passing-by the pub look in to watch what all the fuss is about, with some even clapping him, blissfully unaware that they were missing out on such an enjoyable afternoon.
However, possibly the most amusing part of the forty-minutes are the facial expressions that Thomas adopts whilst performing currently unreleased ‘Nobody Has To Know’; a highly anticipated track amongst his more elitist following, thanks to a snippet of it recently teased on his official TikTok page. On naughtier lines such as “You should come here more often, she says whilst she’s taking my clothes away”, Headon finds a member of the audience to make eye-contact with and raise his eyebrows, as if to say “who wrote that? Definitely not me.”
A slight juxtaposition to the primarily upbeat and comedic acoustic set is the mash up of Thomas’s softer, more mellow numbers, ‘Carry On’ and ‘Her’, and if it wasn’t for the interruption of the traffic outside and Thomas’s playful smile as he sang, this would have been a real tear-jerker moment, especially during the backing track on the instrumental of ‘Her’, which offered a really atmospheric sensation (I was on the verge of tears, I can’t lie).
The gig closes on ‘Clean Me Up’, arguably one of Thomas’s biggest songs (the track has recently surpassed ten million streams on Spotify), and sees Thomas changing the lyrics up from the original “sometimes my bedsheets smell like you in the morning after” to claiming that they smell like glue, just for a laugh and to see if anyone would pick up on it.
After the final song, Thomas goes to get a beer, before spending a lengthy amount of time speaking to members of the crowd individually, taking the time to sign posters purchased from the merch stand minutes before, posing for photos and just having a general chat, making the experience feel even more personal and friendly than the previous setlist and group interaction did.
Thomas Headon shows feel familiar and warm, no matter your age (it’s important to know that nobody is left out at these shows) and the tour’s name, ‘The Living Room Shows’ is a really apt one, as with the acoustics, minimalistic set design of plants and the level of interaction, it really does feel as though you are in the comfort of your own home. I can only begin to imagine how the atmosphere is going to feel at Thomas’s full band tour later this year. Bring on November!