Music Critic Maya Bernstein reviews Jorja Smith’s show at the O2 Academy, calling it ‘an intimate and unforgettable experience’
Just over a month since the release of her highly anticipated second album falling or flying, Jorja Smith kickstarted her intimate headline shows to a sold-out crowd of 2000 at the O2 Academy Birmingham. Having listened to the 16 songs that compose the soulful and vibrant new album since its release in September, I was eager to experience these songs live. The night was full of an electric energy, immersing fans in an unforgettable experience created by Smith’s vocals and stage presence.
Feelings of excitement and anticipation instantly radiated from the queues of stylish girls in their 20s patiently waiting to be let inside. The flashes from disposable cameras shed light on the trendy and chic outfits careful put together by fans to radiate the same vibe as Smith. As the doors opened at seven, floods of fans, hand in hand with their friends, danced their way into the venue. Illuminated by lights reminiscent of Smith’s popular song, the O2 Academy was transformed into a world of blues, accentuated by the buzz of conversation and hum of background music that filled the room as more and more people entered.
As the clock neared nine, the crowd started to quiet down in anticipation. The house lights suddenly dimmed, blue lights illuminated the stage, and the beat of drums filled the room. All eyes and cameras were fixed on the stage. As the beat of drums grew louder and louder, the cheering of the crowd grew, anticipating Smith’s arrival. Suddenly, the beat of the drums stopped, the blue lights switched off and the venue was plunged into a momentary hush. A silhouette appeared on stage, causing fans to erupt in screams and cheers as Smith opened her show with ‘Try Me’, the first song from the new album. The song was the perfect opener. Fans bounced and danced to the beat, instantly creating an atmosphere of energy and excitement.
Jorja Smith’s seamless transition to ‘She Feels’ plunged the crowd into an immersive experience, with fans passionately singing every word, relating to lyrics like ‘Guess she don’t have love for me no more.’ Continuing with her new album, Smith sang ‘Feelings’, which the crowd danced and bounced to. Towards the end of the song Smith stopped singing, allowing the crowd to scream out the lyrics of J Hus’s rap section, creating an intimate interaction between Smith and her fans.
Taking a break from her new album, Jorja Smith introduced herself and took a heartfelt moment to express her gratitude, saying that ‘everyone in this room [made her] heart so full.’ This sentimental moment filled the room with love and appreciation, creating an intimate and genuine connection between Smith and her fans. Smith then played ‘Addicted’, a song she released in 2021. As the first non-album track of the night, the crowd sung every word back, causing Smith to take out her in-ears so she could hear the audience.
Introducing the song that inspired the title of the new album, Smith sang ‘Falling or flying’. Her and her band encouraged fans to clap their hands in rhythm to the end of the song. 2000 people in the same room clapped in unison, expressing a shared love for Smith’s music. Continuing the journey through her new album, Smith played ‘Make sense’, ‘Greatest Gift’, ‘GO GO GO’, and ‘Try and fit in’. Whilst the crowd were not as loud throughout these songs (perhaps because the album has only been out for a month), they danced and swayed to the beat and sang along to the choruses.
Undoubtedly the most energetic part of the night, Smith treated the crowd to an exhilarating performance of five of her most renowned and popular songs. As a fan shouted ‘Blue Lights’, the stage illuminated a sea of blue, and the instrumental sound of her hit song began to play. The whole room erupted as everyone screamed every single lyric to the song. Transitioning straight into ‘Teenage Fantasy’, a song Smith wrote 10 years ago, the crowd cheered as they moved their bodies to the beginning of the song and sang every word to the chorus. Smith then introduced ‘Little Things’, encouraging everyone to ‘have a little boogie’ and then played ‘Be Honest’, as the crowd continued to dance to these vibrant and energetic songs. Ending the show, Smith thanked the crowd and emphasised her gratitude as she started to sing the upbeat and vibe-y song ‘On My Mind’, perfectly closing the night with the crowd dancing.
All in all, Smith’s stage presence, dedicated fans and soulful music created an intimate and unforgettable experience, a flawless launch to her headline tour. Including both old favourites and new songs, Smith crafted an intimate atmosphere that invited fans to not only listen but become an active part of the night. I thoroughly enjoyed this show and am excited to see what Jorja Smith has in store for the future.
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