By Cara Hene, Digital Music Editor
Walsall-born Jorja Smith became a sensation when she was only a teenager, moving to London at 18 to pursue her career. She rose to international fame when she was featured by Drake on More Life in 2017. So, even at the age of 26, Jorja has been in the business for a while. Her new album falling or flying has been a fantastic success, with chart-topping hits ‘Little Things’ and ‘Feelings’ featuring J Hus. Her gig at SWX this October was no different.
The doors opened at seven and by eight it was absolutely packed. It was clear why - the crowd was bubbling over with anticipation, necks craning well before anyone took to the stage.
What stood out about the first few songs were simply their beauty. ‘Try Me’ and ‘Backwards’ especially showcased her amazing vocal ability – gliding over her signature melodic hooks with ease. A rich voice yet agile voice that sounded easily as good as it does on record, if not better. These songs are reminiscent of her debut album Lost and Found, and you could tell she was in her element, happily interacting with the crowd.
This makes me think about how much confidence Smith has gained since I last saw her perform in London at Somerset House in 2018. She hasn’t changed her performance style per se, keeping close to the mic, but it was clear at SWX she was more at ease, almost more comfortable with herself. In short, she had great stage presence. This might have something to do with the process of creating falling or flying. She’s also switched producers, enlisting the help of production duo DAMEDAME*, one of which she’s known since age 15.
The lights suddenly turn red. Indie-rock infused ‘GO GO GO’ begins as Jorja teasingly asks the crowd, “Are you guys ready to fly?”. The change in dynamic is evident and the crowd love it. As with the other songs from falling or flying, ‘GO GO GO’ is packed with energy while Jorja’s singing remains exquisite. This was my favourite number; Smith’s soulful voice uplifted by punchy guitar chords. She segues into what I’m sure many in the crowd were waiting for: ‘Little Things’. If you’re on TikTok (or perhaps Instagram Reels) then you’ll know this one, it's her most popular song on the album. It strikes me that the bass-heavy, syncopated nature of ‘Little Things’ is testament to the melange of genres that Jorja Smith’s music has begun to bridge: her original R&B/Soul repertoire and a more a funky-house, quick-paced style. She does each exceedingly well.
In this vein, Jorja sings ‘Blue Lights’ to the crowd's delight; her breakthrough 2018 song is one that will have introduced many in the crowd, including myself, to Jorja. Everyone knows all the words and I could feel the crowd’s appreciation for her playing an older hit at an album show. Then, another one of her older singles, ‘Be Honest’ starts. The live drums shine through, driving the song forward, embellishing the original.
After an hour and a half, the gig comes to an end with ‘On My Mind’. She begins with the acoustic version. You can tell she’s loving the crowd’s energy in the latter half of the show, grinning as she seamlessly transitions into the club-ready version featuring grime artist Preditah. And with this final number still ringing in our ears, the crowd excitedly seeps out of SWX.
It really was an excellent gig - as usual, Jorja does not disappoint. If you can, I’d highly recommend catching Jorja Smith and her beautiful voice before the falling or flying tour ends on the 10th of November.
Featured Image: Mike Excell
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