Jorja Smith puts sold-out Wiltern in their feels

Jorja Smith Wiltern 2018 mainbar

I had already missed three opportunities to see Jorja Smith this year in southern California. I wasn’t about to make the same mistake again when she announced two shows at The Wiltern.

Those shows sold out pretty fast, and I was able to catch her gig Monday night. I was told she was dealing with tonsillitis, but you would have never known from the powerhouse vocals she was able to deliver seemingly effortlessly.

Jorja Smith‘s full-length album Lost & Found is sure to end up on a lot of year-end lists. It’s certainly ending up on mine. She has immense songwriting talent and is somehow just 21 years old yet has the soul and live capabilities of a seasoned Alicia Keys.

After kicking things off with the album’s title track, she went right into “Teenage Fantasy” — the song that firmly planted her on my must-see list. The song tugs at your heartstrings in the most R&B way possible. To see someone who can hit such a wide range of notes seemingly without trying is nuts. Contrast that with how many R&B singers have to throw their entire bodies into their singing, it blows my mind.

I was surprised how much singing along took place. I’ve been to my fair share of R&B shows. I can’t remember people knowing every word of a one-album singer like this.

Her live band was really talented and I’m glad even at this stage she isn’t using a backing track. I saw some Lauryn Hill in Smith — particularly in the “Lifeboats” rap that’s listed as a freestyle on the record. After introducing the band, Smith walked off the stage before returning to play three more songs.

It certainly doesn’t hurt her future prospects that Jorja Smith looks like a million dollars. She might be the most attractive person on the planet, even. But that would mean little if she didn’t have the robust vocal talent.

It’s safe to say Jorja Smith’s star is shining bright. This is probably the last time you’ll see her in a venue the Wiltern’s size and I felt lucky to witness it.

Words by Mark Ortega
Photos by Betsy Martinez