December 10, 2018
Some time ago in England’s West Midlands the artist born as Jorja Smith decided her music emphasized lyrics. Groomed by her father, a Jamaican man and part of musical group 2nd Naicha, the “Lost & Found” singer started playing music live when she was just eight. That makes 13 years of playing music live, which is a good amount of time for other people working in music to be satisfied with. Smith isn’t other people; she is introvertedly expressive, bringing to life music steeped in linear, pointed paths. Safe from the rainy Atlanta nightfall on stage in Centennial Olympic Park District’s venue the Tabernacle, her time as a professional performer is really just getting started.
Smith took the stage at 9:15 p.m. and remained on it just before 11. Her singing style is that of a contralto. Think Amy Winehouse. She drew vocals from deep inside her well, singing about love and the police from a place of love of writing. It was her performance style, rigid at times, that belied the confidence behind Smith’s studio recordings. The way her voice rose and fell in octaves was very much theatrical.
The crowd sang along at the top of their lungs to “Teenage Fantasy,” one of the songs Smith performed early in the night to set the tone. The number transported the audience to a London courtyard, offering a heartfelt lull. The singer showed crowd control when she positioned the mic to the roaring sea of people, who sang even louder. Pleased they knew the words enough to carry the vocals on their own, Smith’s vocals became strong as ever from then on, weighty and full. Her saving grace came later in the set, when she left the stage so her four-piece band could break into jam. Once the band had wrapped their raucous session, she came back out and took the helm for “Where Did I Go?,” sending a patient crowd into another sing-a-long. At this point in the night, Smith had them in her palm.
Instead of hugging the stage, the band sat plainly in a row behind Smith. It was made clear that this was her show to play and they were there for reinforcement, not uniformity. In a white dress and sneakers, Smith swayed from one side of the stage to the other without much consistency in the attention given to varying sections of the audience. It was clear she was reveling in the moment, even fully living it, pausing to wave in a cute fashion to a fan, and stopping again to make sure two concert-goers who suffered temporary loss of consciousness were alright.
She closed her set with two versions of her Preditah-produced summer smash “On My Mind,” a funky UK garage number with notes of rhythm and blues. Coming out for an encore, you could see in her strut the future before her– one of a Grammy-nominated Best New Artist– one of the many hats she will wear in her path to stardom. With just a little more filled space on the stage and some attentiveness, Smith will find herself able to elevate her studio recordings from translating intimately to electrifying.
Check out the remaining 2018/19 tour dates for Jorja Smith.