Tom Baxter With Support From Rob Richings

by Marcus Powis

After a lovely afternoon spent visiting the Christmas market, I was excited to see Tom Baxter return for his second gig at the Exeter Phoenix in just over a year to promote his latest album, The Uncarved Block – Part One, an instrumental album that he’d only been selling at his live events.

After taking our seats in the auditorium, we were treated to the supporting act, Rob Richings, who played some songs from his new EP as well as some older tracks, while giving us some anecdotes about what inspired each of his songs. These ranged from how his trip to a church built into a loft in Amsterdam inspired Lord In The Attic, to how he funnelled what he felt were his worst qualities into one song. I’d never heard any of his music before but really enjoyed it and caught myself singing along to some of the choruses - I noticed some others in the audience were doing the same. It felt like he’d poured a lot of care and emotion into the lyrics, plus his guitar playing and melodies were top notch.

After a short intermission, Tom Baxter emerged from backstage and began with some tracks from his earlier albums. The music instantly grabbed the crowd and the heartfelt vocals were very moving. He then continued with his version of a James Bond theme, which really captured the mood and feeling of Bond. Tom warned us that the song was more suited to a woman’s voice, but if he hadn’t said anything then I doubt anyone would have noticed. He pulled off every note with ease.

After talking about his break from music to go travelling around the world and gracing us with some insight into the song-writing process, which basically boiled down to getting in and out of relationships and writing about them, Tom continued with Better, which is probably his best known song after being covered by Boyzone. He even dedicated it to a couple in the audience who were celebrating their anniversary, a lovely gesture. Finally, he played the title track from his new album, The Uncarved Block, as well as Sugarcane, which easily became my favourite songs of night. These were much more energetic songs than some of the ones he’d played earlier, and definitely ended the show on a high note. He conveyed a huge range of emotions through his music, and his masterfully written lyrics told some beautiful stories. Tom took a bow, thanked his applauding audience, and took his leave.

After the lights came on Tom Baxter stuck around, chatting with fans and signing anything and everything. I had a quick chat with him before we left, he seemed like a really nice guy who cared a lot about his art and he certainly put on a great show for us that evening.