Trekking over from St Andrews to Glasgow on a rainy cold evening might not seem like the best way to spend a Monday night. However, if I told you that it was to see Jorja Smith perform live at the O2 Academy, then I doubt you would think twice. Feeling relieved that the press desk had handed us tickets we wandered into the concert hall and were greeted by another wave of relief; “wow this is great, no queue for the bar!”. Later we realised why there were no more than 5 people at the bar… because everyone was clearly underage. Despite this I refuse to believe that this concert defines her general audience as young teeny-boppers. Perhaps the limited age range could be down to an early start and finish time, in a (safe) small venue, with tickets priced at around £20. And to no surprise the bellowing screams to ‘Teenage Fantasy’ sounded furiously female.
Our seats in the upper tier lacked atmosphere. So we sneaked back down into standing general admission (which was sold out and had reached full capacity) and secured our front row spots in the crowd. The stage was directly above our noses (and we were almost able to see up Jorja’s own nose).
Her support act was a young female singer from South London. When she announced this I felt a pang of homesickness within this Scottish city. I wonder if Jorja even has time to get homesick while she’s on tour for next 4 months, with gigs across Europe, Australia, Canada, and USA, back to back. Weirdly enough the O2 academy in Glasgow feels identical inside to the O2 academy Brixton in London. It was bizarre, I thought I had actually walked into Brixton. It was intimate and cosy, very appropriate for the performance she gave. Pure, stripped back, no elaborate dance routines or fancy stage decor. Just Jorja Smith owning a stage and playing to the crowds emotions. I had prepared myself for a melancholic performance, ready to well-up and text my ex. But thankfully this didn’t happen. It was empowering to be within the same 500 metres as a very talented and compelling musician.
When Jorja appeared on stage in strappy heels, a colourful collage-like bandage dress playing up to her figure, I was surprised. I had imagined she would have gone for a more laid-back tracksuit look (seeing as Nike are supplying her with tons of gear), but she seemed to have gone for a young Amy Winehouse vibe: the teeny weeny mini dress with dark long hair sashaying behind her. Performing for two hours straight, one water break on stage, along with the weight of those braids and the height of her heels, her performance was an impressive feat. She has a great deal of stamina to say the least.
Jorja opened with “Lost and Found”, “Teenage Fantasy” and “Something in the Way” to raise the crowd’s spirits, which seemed to have been dampened by the rain. Then she sandwiched the more morose songs such as “Goodbyes” and “Tomorrow” in the middle. I think that “Tomorrow” is highly underrated and it should definitely be your new favourite Jorja Smith song. The reason is, Jorja tends to supress her classically trained soprano roots in most of her songs, (nowadays it’s sort of unfashionable), even though she has such a great vocal range. I only realised this when we heard her chilling and angelic performance of “Tomorrow” where she had to reach some pretty high notes. So chilling we actually witnessed the crowd stop perspiring for a moment and turn to ice. But then all of sudden she changed tempo and mood with her freestyle “Lifeboats” and there was the surprise element of… I am aware that a big faux-pas of talking about music is to never compare one artist to another artist, but I mean it as a compliment when I say her freestyle song emulated a mix of Loyle Carner and Tom Misch.
The thrill of going to see an artist you admire perform is not knowing what songs they will choose. Being given the set list was like being given your exam results before you’ve even sat the exam. A relief, but also a disappointment. One boy saw us holding the set list over our shoulder and asked when Drake would be coming on. He looked like he was ready to go home when he we told him no, “Get it Together” would not be playing. Even though I had seen the set list, each song still came as a new unexpected delight. However at the end she had a brief encore, skipped through “Don’t Watch Me Cry” and onto “On My Mind” (Preditah didn’t come on in case you were wondering). I got the feeling that she either had a curfew or had places to be and people to see.
And that’s the impression I was left with. I can’t say that Jorja Smith seemed entirely ecstatic to be in Glasgow. Perhaps this was just her cool laid-back star persona. But I felt a pang of envy when I saw her performance in Manchester on her Instagram story and she was really engaging with the crowd. In Glasgow she put in a professional performance but it didn’t feel special. To be fair, it was cold and raining and the crowd wasn’t super lively. Therefore I get it. It’s likely she’s saving her energy for her round the world tour starting now and going on until February. But I still wish she had stayed a bit longer and we could have shown her a good night out in Scotland to raise her spirits.
Guidbye for noo, Jorja Smith.