LIVE REVIEW: Little Simz @ O2 Academy, Newcastle (27.11.21) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Photo by Thomas Jackson (TyneSight Photographic)

Few artists have owned 2021 like Little Simz, and there’s everything in tonight’s support slot to suggest Alewya will be following suit before long. Fresh from the release of debut EP Panther in Mode, the London-based artist’s sultry dance-pop is sourced from a vast range of cultural touchstones, from traditional Arabic and Ethiopian music to Jamaican dancehall. It’s a beautifully honed sound; stylish and assured, yet equally stocked with saucy, club-primed bangers. She’s on stage for less than half-an-hour, when most would happily have seen her play twice as long. Rarely has an opener seemed such a sure-fire bet for success.

Although her initial attire – tracksuit, sunglasses and bandana – feels somewhat reserved, there’s no such restraint in the fanfare heralding Little Simz’ arrival. Introvert’s bombastic brass and marching drum intro is hardly a surprise starting point – being both the first track and lead single from new album Sometimes I Might Be Introvert – but it’s no less extraordinary for that, exemplifying the scope and ambition underpinning the 90-minute extravaganza that’s to follow.

Undoubtedly one of 2021’s finest full-lengths, SIMBI’s impact has been so profound that Simz feels compelled to ask before her first dive into older material; a quirk that’s all the more remarkable given the number in question is Boss, is a standout from 2019’s similarly superb GREY Area. Indeed, while established numbers are scattered throughout, tonight’s performance is first and foremost a showcase of the new record, complete with interludes and – eventually – the colourful wardrobe its rich, diverse delights demand. Radiating a charisma which both elevates her bars and negates the need for hype men, the likes of I Love You, I Hate You, Standing Ovation and Fear No Man bear all the hallmarks of instant classics. In fact, the only noticeable dip comes not from one of her own cuts, but rather an indulgent detour into the catalogue of OTG; part of a five-piece band whose backing otherwise proves impeccable.

From her roots on an Islington council estate to the current slew of Album of the Year accolades showering upon her, there are scant signs of Simz being taken aback by her meteoric rise. It’s certainly tempting to liken the current tour to a victory lap, yet the overriding impression from this dazzling, triumphant show is of an artist who even now possesses untapped gears. For diehards and casual fans alike, the prospect of her engaging them could scarcely be more exciting.

Photo by Thomas Jackson (TyneSight Photographic)

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