To introduce Jorja Smith as a Mercury Prize nominee and Brit winner would be unnecessary, one need only listen to her music to understand the gravity of her talent. The extent of this talent, however, was not glaringly clear to me until I saw her live. Seeing an artist, particularly one so young, perform their own work flawlessly is something rare, special and utterly promising. From subtle signals for adjusting mics to Smith leaving the stage all-together and allowing her band to play sumptuous versions of her recorded tracks, it was clear that this show was going to be much more than a tired-out and laborious run-through of the artist’s biggest hits.
Dynamically moving through most of her repertoire, her voice and performance style slickly moved from her more soulful, jazzy songs to the more chart-friendly of her numbers. This fluidity was mirrored by her crowd who chanted, rapped and wailed to her more popular songs like ‘Blue Lights’ and ‘Teenage Fantasy’ and respectfully listened to the likes of ‘Goodbyes’, letting the music wash over them and fill the cavernous and ornate ceilings of the Albert Hall. Attracting a female-heavy crowd of all ages and performing songs from the astutely political to the fickleness of emotions, her whole performance was encapsulating and engaging.
Joined by The Katanas for ‘Lifeboats’, the twins brought a new energy and sugary sweet harmonies and a verse rapped in perfect unison to Smith’s freestyle hit. This was topped, however, by the surprise arrival of Maverick Sabre on stage for ‘Carry Me Home’, making their silkily sultry recorded collaboration to a full-bodied reality.
But Smith was equally impressive when stripping the music back, demonstrating her incredible range without exhaustion and what seemed like little effort. Returning to the stage for her encore, accompanied only by her pianist, Smith delivered ‘Don’t Watch Me Cry’ with heady forcefulness. Singing A Capella in the final moments of the number, the evidence of the rawness of her talent came solely in the form of the gut-punching sound of her own voice.
Astounding from start to finish, there was no weak point within this show. Smith offered the crowd nothing short of flawlessness and she offered it humbly. Delicately strolling across the stage and committing nothing but a small, approving nod to acknowledge when she’d done well, we were simply handed her beauty and power to absorb for our own. Never before have I felt that I was being handed far more than I deserve from an artist.
Photo Credit Rose Crees