Tom Chaplin, St Mary’s Church, Rye, 15th Dec 2016

Tom Chaplin once said “my voice is a beautiful instrument and I am in sole charge of it. But it seems to suggest a kind of pure and angelic quality in me as a person. And there is real darkness in my soul”. It’s this darkness that has haunted Tom until very recently and it is this constant battle to reach the light that fills Tom’s self penned solo album with a spirit of optimism. Last Thursday night Tom performed on his doorstep at St Mary’s Church in Rye as part of the Rye Blues and Jazz Festival. If ever a voice was meant to fill a church it is Tom’s and the experience seemed almost cathartic.

‘The Wave’ is Tom’s recorded debut as a songwriter. During the Keane years it was Tim Rice-Oxley who wrote. Tom maybe didn’t feel he had the inspiration; maybe his longtime drug problem stopped him accessing his creative core. He is quoted as saying, “I think drugs and creativity are thoroughly incompatible”. Whatever the issue, his deliverance from an all time low and near death in the last few years has given birth to an outstanding album of beauty and considerable inspiration. With the lyrical content of this album it seems fitting that it was delivered in a church that Tom graced as a chorister in younger more innocent years. It feels almost fateful and the irony didn’t seem lost on a reflective Tom. 

Mixing songs from his superb new album ‘The Wave’ and classics from the Keane back catalogue, Tom enchanted a sell out crowd who seemed to forget they were in a Church by the end of the night and were out of their seats dancing, waving their arms in the air and cheering for more. They were rewarded not only with the old and the new but with a simply brilliant mash up of ‘White Christmas’ and Bond classic ‘Live and Let Die’. Tom has always been master of the mash up in his Keane years and this brilliant Christmas song with a twist was no exception.

I sat behind a little babe in arms, also named Tom, who was at his first gig and just next to his mum was a senior citizen who clapped, stood, sang along and thoroughly enjoyed every moment. Surely this is what live music is all about and whilst Tom Chaplin can evoke this reaction over such a wide difference in age, he must be motivated to continue his recovery and keep producing music and performances of this calibre. He was quite simply mesmerising and to see him once again at the top of his game was the perfect start to Christmas. 

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