ITZ Live is a new space on ITZSOWEEZEE that will be dedicated to reviews of some of the many live shows that we are privileged to attend. The first write-up comes courtesy of Toronto-to-London transplants Soundbwoy and FeelGoodSmalls.
It was a hot and packed house at the Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen (London, UK) last Wednesday, March 9th, for London songstress Espa’s first headlining show. The venue was buzzing with excitement, and, if you were one of the many lucky enough to grab a ticket to this sold out show, you got to experience an intimate night filled with her soulful R&B sounds.
The tone for the evening was set by the opening act, 18 year-old hip-hop/grime artist Isaiah Dreads. Given that the duty of warming up the crowd is never an easy one, this London native had the crowd glued to his every word as he cycled through his repertoire of records. He performed samples of never-before-heard material, along with songs from his latest mixtape, Lights Turn Green, which was released a little over three months ago. There was a certain energy that he brought to the stage and it was perfect for welcoming Espa out for her headlining debut.
Walking out to a packed room can be overwhelming, but that did not phase Espa at all. From the moment she took hold of the mic, her presence was felt in the room. The crowd, acknowledging her aura, tried to find any space they could to squeeze in closer and take in this experience. We could feel her energy and excitement as she introduced herself, and what a perfect way to debut her sound – one that she has been working on in the studio day-in and day-out – to a sold out audience. From the thump of the first kick drum, you knew she was starting her set with “Orbit”. She rocked back and forth with the smooth R&B groove of the song, displaying her confidence and stage presence. Her tone and charisma roped us in and, from that point on, we knew that this night was going to be special.
Taking a second to embrace the crowd and then transitioning into her next song, “Still I Wait”, Espa showcased her ability to blend rapping and singing seamlessly. It only made sense that the next song in her set would follow the same pattern as she lead into “Rodney”, which features Erick Arc Elliot (one third of the Brooklyn rap group Flatbush ZOMBiES). With her soulful voice and Erick’s catchy rhymes, the two went back-and-forth like Method Man and Mary J. Blige on their classic cut, “All I Need”. It was as if we could instantly feel the classic 90s hip-hop and R&B vibe.
Paying homage to one of her major influences, Craig David, Espa transformed his hit single “Fill Me In” into her own darker and more emotional number. At this point, she didn’t have to exert much effort, as the crowd was singing along and grooving once the song kicked into the garage vibes we have all grown to love.
Taking this show as an opportunity to showcase the sound she’s been developing, Espa blessed the crowd with two unreleased tracks – always a highlight of attending live shows. “Now We Know” and “Dry” gave rise to Espa’s sound and were definitely a hit among the crowd. Still, staying true to her R&B, soul, and pop vibe, we were excited to hear what else she had been cooking up in the studio. At this point, the show was still not over and Espa wasn’t showing any signs of slowing down. She followed her new material with “Pray for Me” and “Swan Song”, showcasing her vocal range and personality.
Espa never missed a chance to interact with her fans, who clearly knew all the lyrics to her songs as they sung along with her. She was backed by two phenomenal singers, Cherise Coryna and Layal Ley, and a very talented band. Espa took us on a journey that she had been dying to share with the world, and we were glad to be a part of it. Her quirky sense of humour allowed the crowd to warm up to her easily, and she won everyone over as she showed off her vocal abilities.
Be sure to check out Espa’s official website, www.espamusic.com, to stay up-to-date with her releases and show dates. Make sure to also follow her on SoundCloud, which you can use to access all of the music that she performed at this show.
Living for the moments…