If there was one place to catch all the big dogs of the British music industry this was an evening they’d turned out in force and headed south of the river to a small theatre room at The Bedford in Balham to catch a breath of the lightening fast rise of Jorja Smith.
You might as well have called this a mini turnout of the kind of industry heads last seen at the Brit Awards a week before – surrounded by who’s who of British A&R and marketing executives from labels like XL, Sony, Universal and others, there was no doubt the competition was heating up to lock the deal with the yet unsigned singer.
For what might have been just another gig on the calendar for Jorja to shore up fans, this was more a battle of the giants to grab a seat in the tightly packed venue. You’d have expected the 18 year old to be bag of nerves performing to this crowd, but Jorja Smith was simply here to sing her heart out and it was apparent she had no plan other than to make sure she stole the moment with her songs.
Heading to almost half a million plays on SoundCloud within a month with her debut single ‘Blue Lights‘, the timing of the gig had come hot off the heels of the new video release of the single. Donning a black hoodie and accompanied by just one musician, Jorja opened with a beautiful smile and took the night over at The Bedford right on the dot at 8.00pm.
Jorja has the gift, and the stage was hers for 30 minutes to exquisitely showcase her vocal range, performing back to back 6 tracks and utterly confident in her classical training. Opening with ‘A Prince’, Jorja took us from reciprocity and rejection heading into her 2nd track ‘Lovin’ You’, while cleverly slipping in a lyric ‘the sweetest taboo‘ almost cheekily challenging those Sade references that were inevitably in those A&R’s sights. Locking in every eye, she sang about loving and living “under your spell,” while weaving her magic with her soulful sonics.
Literary references to The Great Gatsby inspired her next song ‘Beautiful Little Fools’ which required the audience to click along as she’d intended to do herself but couldn’t quite with her newly manicured nails.
Switching it up for her next track ‘Don’t Watch Me Cry’, Jorja’s musician headed to the keyboards for a ‘moment in time’ that everyone in the venue knew would be the gig that a few years down the line everyone would claim they’d been at.
Ultimately we knew it was coming and so Jorja closed out her set with her debut single ‘Blue lights’ performing to track and totally assured to take it up another level and push her signing over boom bap to rhyme.
Walking off stage with a big smile, the ensuing shouts for ‘one more’ for an encore had me wondering when was the last time I’d seen a virtually unknown support act jump back on stage to requests from such a fervoured audience.
Back with her keyboardist at hand, Jorja put in one more number, ending the night quite aptly with her lyric “So this is goodbye” – bye…
Jorja’s got Grammy’s in her sights, and all the heads in The Bedford were eyeing up the competition to see who would enter the ring and duly engage in what is inevitably heading to a bidding war to sign her up.
A quiet storm was definitely brewing in that pub in Balham last night…