Gigwatch: Joy Crookes @ The Lock Tavern, Camden

Written by Jack Andrew Cribb

Last week I had the pleasure of being in Camden to see a live performance from 18 year old Joy Crookes, who hails from South London. I hadn’t experienced much of Crookes’ music previously, only knowing that she dealt in the realm of contemporary soul.

The small room on the first floor of the Lock Tavern in Camden was initially quiet when I arrived at around seven o’clock. I settled with waiting for Joy Crookes’ set to start in the only way I knew how, beer and conversation. Time advanced, and the room began to fill, becoming well and truly full by the time Crookes took to the stage and I had finished my pint.

Dressed in a bright yellow and green dress, replete with electric guitar hung from her shoulders, Crookes walks on stage confidently – it’s evident she has done this before. The crowd seems impatient for her music. At 18 years old, her fan base is already quite large, which made me wonder why, as of course I was relatively unversed with her work, yet soon, I was to be thoroughly educated.

She began with the track Poison, a deep-bass driven track, sultry, and restrained. It simultaneously reminded me of Amy Winehouse, and for some reason unbeknown to me, 80’s pop – maybe some similarities of melody? I couldn’t tell, all I could think of was Crookes’ commanding stage presence, as she told her band “Boys, can we quiet this down please”, as a softer, more intimate verse is played.

Smiling frequently, the stage her homeland, and after a round of applause Crookes begins to play Mother Mercy, which is an immediate crowdpleaser, her smooth and subtly-powerful vocals stealing the limelight, while the tight backing music grooves along, and the percussion takes on a distinctly jazz sound that borders on the improvisational.

I’m enjoying myself. The crowd are enjoying themselves. Hell, even the people who can’t fit in the small room Crookes plays in, who are currently sat or stood in the stairwell just outside, are enjoying themselves. The South London artist launches into New Manhattan, a darker piece with a dark story, which uses the quiet notes of a harp in verses, switching to a contemporary orchestral instrumentation in the chorus, while a dulcet guitar plucks strings and echoes as if alone. It’s a very good track, a crescendo that almost is very filmic in nature, replete with dark tones and a rich and riveting timbre. I’d argue this is where Crookes bases her evolving sound, the area where soul meets alternative.

Credit: Joy Crookes

The next song, Elephant And Castle, is where Crookes’ London roots really start to shine through. The lyrics are speedily-sung, ‘When you come down to South/ We’ve got room for your friends’. The way Crookes writes in this song is very much based on experience, and shows she has a truly talented way with lyrics. She preaches’ The south of the river makes you change your mind/ Why don’t you come on down so you can realise?’

Crookes will be a good choice for fans of Jorja Smith, Fatima, Mabel, and even artists like Hiatus Kaiyote (her voice sounds rather similar to that of Nai Palm). She is part of the growing movement of artists switching up the genres of contemporary/neo-soul, R & B, and indie, creating an altogether updated sound based on the classic grooves. At her gig in Camden’s Lock Tavern, she owned this mixture as much as she owned the stage. With her tidal attitude to live shows, playing the dark songs and then the sweet songs, and the soft in consecutive ordering, Crookes influences the crowd subliminally. In your home, played from your speakers, her music is welcoming, live, it is captivating.

Joy Crookes is currently working on her debut album. You can check out the recently released video for her single Bad Feeling, here:

Credit: Joy Crookes

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