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Culture, Music

Jorja Smith at O2 Academy Birmingham

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8/10 Review - 7 November 2023

A joyous homecoming for the Walsall born songstress.

On a crisp Tuesday night in Birmingham, those lucky enough to be at the O2 Academy are eagerly awaiting the arrival of Jorja Smith to the stage. As the lights go down and Jorja’s backing band assume their positions on stage, a wave of phone torches go up into the air. A thundering drum beat stokes excitement in the audience, until finally to rapturous applause, Jorja reveals herself on stage by spotlight as the band kick into the powerful “Try Me”, the lead single off of her sophomore record, “Falling or Flying”.

Although all the band and Jorja herself are dressed in black, tonight is certainly no funeral. This was a celebratory homecoming for Jorja, as she recognises and waves to friends and family in the crowd. There is a palpable sense of emotion in the room as the end or her songs are regularly greeted with screams of “We love you Jorja”, and adoration from her crowd. It's clear that Jorja is overwhelmed by the outpouring of love she is receiving from the crowd as she modestly thanks the room for coming, whilst her face beams with delight.

The majority of the setlist this evening is reserved for those from Jorja’s latest album the captivating and introspective “Falling or Flying”. The J Hus featured “Feelings” from this album gets one of the biggest responses of the night as the afrobeat instrumentation really thrives when played live. Although there is no appearance from J Hus himself one of the backing vocalists’ steps in and does an impressive job of bouncing off of Jorja’s melodies. In fact, one of the great strengths of this live show is just how talented Jorja’s backing band are and how tight the instrumentation is. The performance of the title track “Falling or Flying” builds through its atmospheric piano keys and Jorja’s flawless vocals, until we hit a crescendo with a wailing, show-stopping guitar solo.

Throughout the set Jorja is able to switch up the pace without ruining the flow of the show. She elegantly works her way through the slower paced and emotionally transparent “Broken Is The Man”. She introduces the jazz leaning “Greatest Gift” as a “love letter to herself” which is very much apparent in the self-love inspired lyrics. Jorja is able to effortlessly raise the energy in the room with the indie-rock inspired “GO GO GO”, the crowd's hands aloft, clapping along to the introductory guitar chords.

There are tasters of Jorja’s older material sprinkled in throughout the first half of the set with the bouncing dancehall of “Come Over” and the lyrically yearning “Addicted”. However, the biggest audience responses of the night are of course earnt by Jorja’s more up-tempo songs. The gypsy woman remix of “Little Things” brings rhythmic drumming that creates a carnival atmosphere and the old school UK garage beats of “On My Mind” transports the O2 Academy back to the 90’s.

The most mesmerising element of Jorja’s live show is just how exquisite and note perfect her vocals are. It is a voice that is powerful enough to be filling out much larger venues than this one and I am sure she is destined to do so. There is a self-assuredness to her stage presence that is completely absent of any arrogance which beautifully endears her to the audience. The emotional catharsis and buoyant energy of Jorja’s performance will undoubtedly leave the audience wanting more.

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