Some would say her musical style is smooth hip-hop, others have called it vintage RnB, garage or jazz, but JORJA SMITH doesn’t want to be defined by a genre. She simply makes the music she wants to make. Tonight, the recipient of the BRITS’ Critics’ Choice Award invites us to her sold-out show at the Invisible Wind Factory to witness her stunning, soulful voice as we try to unpick what her sound is all about.
Opening the night, support act MAHALIA is welcomed by an overwhelming amount of support pouring from the crowd. It seems people are just as excited for her as they are for the headliner – and rightfully so. Mahalia makes the stage her own, performing a flawless acoustic cover of Solange’s Cranes In The Sky mashed-up with The Weekend by SZA, and the audience sing the lyrics back to her. Finishing her set with Sober, Mahalia receives enthusiastic screams as she revels in the reception from her new fans.
Smith seems as excited as us, smiling and waving to fans as she arrives on stage to eager chants of her name. The tone is set as she opens with Something In The Way, an atmospheric, moody little number that makes this warehouse feel like an intimate club. With the stage painted in cherry red lights, Smith introduces an unreleased track and future fan favourite, February 3rd. The new song embraces the neo-soul vibe that her work tends to embody and is complemented with a catchy chorus.
The 20-year-old from Walsall has an elegant stage presence that is parallel to her effortlessly smooth vocals. There’s a lot of love in this room tonight; the raw talent she possesses leaves everyone reeling in a state of awe. It’s easy to see the passion that Smith bears for each of her songs and her energy is reflected in the mostly female audience. It is empowering to see women actively supporting and encouraging other women in a setting like this.
The stage lights fade to blue as Blue Lights kicks in and the crowd elevates a level. As the set comes to an end, Smith and her band briefly leave the stage and return to a loud and merited applause. For a moment, she stands and absorbs the appreciation. Saving two of her most loved songs until the encore, she performs Let Me Down and an acoustic version of On My Mind. The song transitions into the original, upbeat version that features British musician Preditah. It’s a hands-in-the-air moment, and the size of the crowd packed in here tonight exhibits the influence this ascendant artist is having on the industry.