A crooning Crookes basks in the adoration of Hackney’s EartH
Anoushka Khandwala
15:06 6th November 2019

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There’s a steely-eyed determination residing in Joy Crookes’ expression. It’s infectious when she’s performing, from the defiant delivery of ‘Yah/Element’, to the stripped down, sumptuous ‘Since I Left You.’ Born to a Bengali mother and Irish father, her musical influences reflect the diversity of her South London surroundings, from Nick Cave to Kendrick Lamar, classic rock and blues influences seeping into every note she utters.

Upon entering EartH - Dalston’s popular art-deco-cinema-turned-music-venue - there’s a sweltering anticipation amongst her fans, who sit on the giant steps that rise up from the stage, echoing concert hall vibes. However, there are no bum cheeks meeting the floor when Crookes takes to the stage, as the feverish excitement boils over into raucous cheers and yells of joy. Her audience perfectly reflects the diversity of the city – from beanie topped heads and bead adorned braids, to fros and hijabs, beards and blondes so platinum the stage lights glance off their colour.

From the outset with hits including ‘No Hands’, the off beat anthem of independence, and the earnest, wayward ’Mother may I sleep with danger please’, it’s clear there is a powerful spirit behind her lyrics. Crookes moves on to debut a song about mental health, after which an audience member slaps her hand onto the stage in a true London-style demonstration of love.

Crookes’ passion for her city continues as the opening strings to ‘London Mine’ poignantly pierce the air, and the crowd recite the lyrics back to her. Her tones are so smooth and effortless, it’s almost as if they’re saturated with sugar molasses. She dons a guitar to play the blues infused ‘Don’t Let Me Down’, and shyly counts the crowd in as they belt out the infectious chorus.

The peak arrives through the sexy ‘Yah/Element’, a cover of two of Kendrick Lamar’s songs. Lyrics ‘If I gotta slap a pussy ass, I’mma make it look sexy’ are turned on their head when sung by a woman, a feminist power radiating through the song. ‘Early’ and ‘Man’s World’ rock the room with classic rock climaxes. A swagger is unearthed in Crookes’ live performance that goes undetected in her recordings. At the encore, even through she gestures that she’ll return, the crowd respond by roaring as if about to stampede, and it’s an obscene amount of noise that greets the final song ‘Two Nights’.

Joy Crookes, with her Winehouse-esque voice, will draw comparisons to all the great crooners due to her effortlessly swinging lilt. You have to take a moment to admire the fact that the punters know every line to every song, devoted in a way that’s usually reserved for stars gracing the likes of Wembley or the O2. To be inside a venue housing a mere 750 people and witness the level of adoration that Crookes commands, is to know that to put it mildly, big tings are coming.

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Photo: Anoushka Khandwala