The sign outside The Jazz Café read ‘South London Soul Star Joy Crookes’ and the performance that was to follow proved the statement’s accuracy.
Joy Crookes’ versatility was displayed from the moment she walked on-stage, following Irish artist Jafaris’ warm-up set. Her delicate yet powerfully soulful voice gave the whole varied set an equally mesmerising character, from the upbeat Two Nights, from her 2019 EP Reminiscence, to a Kendrick cover later in the night. Joy introduced Darkest Hour, a song from her latest EP Perception, which she dedicated to her father—who was sat in the balcony—and asked the crowd who liked Motown. This highlighted what Joy Crookes is doing so well: giving soul music a modern flair and bringing it back to the forefront of popular music.
Crookes’ relaxed rapport with the audience made the performance feel personal, especially in a venue where nobody is too far from the stage. It felt impossible not to feel lucky to be witnessing such immeasurable talent in such an intimate venue ahead of big times sure to come for Crookes.
Crookes’ initial encouragement to dance was not needed by the latter half of the set, as her infectiously tuneful voice had the Jazz Café moving along with her talented band that clearly stood out. Crookes, herself, picked up a Les Paul guitar during Don’t Let Me Down and effortlessly played the buttery lead melody.
Before playing Since I Left You, Crookes gave a warning to anyone heartbroken in the audience about the emotion that was to follow, but the poignancy of the song felt like it united everyone—heartbroken or not—as Crookes’ emotion was plain to see, and hear. Crookes’ passion and talent cannot be overstated. This was demonstrated in the piercing chorus of the powerful break-up song stating that ‘freedom doesn’t come for free’. It was impossible not to wonder where this power found in Crookes’ lyricism will take her – without a doubt way beyond those privileged enough to see her on this special one-off night.
Prior to introducing her latest single, London Mine, Crookes spoke about researching Windrush and being inspired to write something highlighting the importance of the very thing that she believes makes the city so great – its people. Crookes used the examples of Jamaica and Colchester to emphasise how immigrants from far and wide have contributed to making London what it is: a place Crookes clearly holds close to her heart with mentions of Brixton and East Street in Two Nights along with the widespread references to the Kennington Road and elsewhere in London Mine.
This was a very special night with all the hallmarks of ‘I was there when…’. We will definitely be hearing plenty more from the soulful voice of Joy Crookes in the future.
Edited by Evangeline Stanford, Digital Editor