London Student

Jorja Smith, O2 Shepherd’s Bush Empire

The night opened with Mahalia, a both cool and corny singer-actress, whose personality is prioritised over any contrived “act” one expects from an artist. Her songs varied in their landing. One, a sentimental track dedicated to her parents, had a tone reminiscent of Chance the Rapper when he’s overly-sincere. But another, the hit ‘Sober’, landed well. Not that, at any point, the audience would have replaced her with anyone else. Mahalia has a natural charm that renders her irreplaceable – as a warm-up act. For then came Jorja. 

Jorja Smith is an angel not in disguise. The songstress wandered onto the stage wearing a sports tee and a disarming smile, ready to awe-strike the audience with Beyoncé-like ease. And strike she did. Certainly, mid-show, a few of her songs lost the audience. Smith dared to rehearse tracks from her unreleased album. The audience did not know the words and, in a moment of unexpected nervousness, neither did she. But all were quick to forgive her. Smith found the audience again with her cover of Frank Ocean’s ‘Lost’ and a duet with the acclaimed Maverick Sabre. The crowd-enrapturing hits followed. The songs ‘Teenage Fantasy’ and ‘Blue Lights’ had the spectators, a mass of mid-teens, in high spirits at points where the tone risked being dampened (such is Smith’s melancholic catalogue). It is a testament to the regard in which her fans hold her that Stormzy’s absence from ‘Let Me Down’ was agreeably dismissed with a “but I’m here, so.” Certainly, the rapper’s appearance would only have limited the personal time spent between the audience and their heroine.

Smith ended with two versions of the soon-to-be-UK-classic ‘On My Mind’: a low-tempo, soulful interpretation, and the high-tempo original. Here, Smith made it clear that she is both the spiritual descendant of Amy Winehouse and a Garage Queen. Her talent means she is, and will be, whatever she chooses. But regardless of what she chooses, she has been a blessing to the UK music scene.


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