Jorja Smiths latest Glasgow appearance shows her at her very best
At a sold-out gig on a dreich Monday night, Jorja Smith brought light and energy to the crowd of 20-somethings packed into the O2 Academy. Jorja casually walked across the stage with no introduction before getting right into it, as my friend whispered to me: “She’s younger than us you know.” Starting with the title track “Lost and Found” and not stopping to speak until three songs in, she has a voice beyond her years. There is definitely an air of Amy Winehouse about her musical depth and effortlessness.
A social commentary of love and life for those of us in this generation, “Lifeboats (Freestyle)” came in the latter half of her set where she declares: “So why are all the riches staying afloat?/See all my brothers drowning even though they’re in the boat”. At 21 years old, Jorja is using her platform to create songs with a soul; many overflowing with meaning and anger at social injustice. She isn’t just a generic pretty girl with a great voice. In interviews, Jorja comes across as extremely eloquent and a heavy promoter of self-love and kindness, having openly discussed issues of being uncomfortable in her own skin as a teenager. Her raw talent and humanity is embedded throughout her debut album and in interviews.
“Blue Lights” may have finished her set but it was the song that started it all. After having chosen to study “Post-Colonialism in Grime Music” whilst in school, Jorja had begun to freestyle with Dizzee Rascal’s “Sirens” before recording it and uploading it to Soundcloud. It was here that she was picked up by the likes of Stormzy and Skept and it was from here that her career blossomed, and since then has gone from strength to strength. Even though she has already been involved with many collaborations with the heroes of grime music, she consciously chose to make her debut album free of features – thus being able to showcase her musical independence and individualism. This made for an incredible live set, as concert goers were treated to a performance dedicated to Jorja’s celebrated debut album.
After briefly leaving the stage, Jorja graced us with her presence for the encore. A heart wrenching rendition of “blstDon’t Watch Me Cry” cemented again how talented this girl is as a singer and songwriter. To hold an audience’s attention during slow, soulful ballads is an impressive feat. Having listened to the album on repeat since its release, I realised that her talent for live singing outdid her recorded album. The band must have a mention too – Jorja introduced them each and then an intense jam session followed. This was really rather refreshing just to hear talented musicians evidently having an absolute blast together on stage. “Let Me Down” then followed, as the crowd echoed every word back to her. Finally, the beat came in and the crowd lost it big time. Officially closing her “favourite gig so far” was “On My Mind”. She had us all in the palm of her hand. Having demonstrated her vocal range, intellect, beauty and song writing ability, she was now proving that she knew how to get the audience riled up. The joy emanating from the whole room was undeniable – she left everyone on such a high. Possibly one of the best endings to a gig I have seen in a very long time.
Declaring in an interview that she’s “still growing”, I’m eager to see where she goes. We need more people like Jorja Smith to keep live music exciting and to help influence our generation in a positive direction. If you haven’t checked her out on Spotify already I would highly recommend doing so. Only having been on the scene for two years, I can’t wait to see her next time she plays in Glasgow.