Live Review: Jorja Smith // Oxford o2 Academy


It’s fairly safe to say not many artists have a musical CV quite as impressive as one of the UK’s brightest new stars Jorja Smith, before even releasing a debut album. Last year the Walsall born songstress cameoed on Drake’s most recent project ‘More Life’ and then toured North America extensively with Bruno Mars. She has already won the Brits 2018 Critics’ Choice award which she will be presented with later this month, as well as featuring on Kendrick Lamar’s accompanying album to the upcoming Marvel film ‘Black Panther’.

This is the penultimate date of her latest tour, and with a minimal but effective stage backdrop of warm glowing lampshades and red curtain, the O2 academy is transformed into a smoky downtown New York Jazz bar. It’s the perfect accompaniment to Jorja’s mesmerising stage presence as she saunters around stage with effortless cool and jazz infused vocals flooding the room. The set opens with ‘Something in the Way’, setting the standard high for the night as swirling guitar solos and crooning basslines dance around her jaw dropping voice.

Amy Winehouse and Lauryn Hill are clear influences, and this is most evident on the deliciously chilled ‘Beautiful little fools’ which proceeds some new unheard tracks that are received with just as much elation from the feverous, sold out crowd who are being absolutely treated throughout. Halfway through the set she drops a surprise cover of Frank Ocean’s ‘Lost’, which is a perfect fit to her style and the flow of the set. It’s certainly a bold move to cover an artist such as Frank Ocean, but she takes it in her stride confidently, and the gorgeous Channel Orange album track could easily be one of her own.

As Jorja delivers a relentless stream of flawless vocals with the confidence of a performer twice her age, it’s almost incomprehensible that this gifted young artist is merely twenty years old and has been slowly building her own hype and reputation since she was in high school. Her exceptional backing band add a real power and groove to even her softer more intimate material, which really transforms her set into a lively celebration of this rising talent. Fan favourite ‘Blue Lights’, which is a pulsating R&B anthem about police oppression, also sampling Dizzee Rascal, is followed seamlessly by old cuts ‘Teenage Fantasy and ‘Imperfect Circle’. Even at this point in her career it feels like a greatest hits setlist as the show ramps up for the climax.

She returns for a final encore starting with ‘Let me down’, her recent hit single normally featuring grime prince Stormzy. It’s a soaring emotive ballad of almost cinematic size and grandeur, and its haunting melody is simply gigantic throughout its live incarnation. Closing the show with the infectious ‘On my mind’ marks the end of a stunning set showcasing just how exciting the future is looking for Jorja. She is utterly incredible on record and her debut full length album, hopefully dropping later in 2018 will no doubt be one of the records of the year. However it is essential to see her live when you can because she delivers an absolute masterclass, infusing urban soul, jazz and R&B into her own uniquely irresistible mix, to completely justify all the immense excitement surrounding this prestigious young talent.


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