Pinky swears are usually reserved for playground disputes and telling secrets, but Ravyn Lenae kicked off her set Monday night with a less conventional one.
After her first song, the R&B singer-songwriter asked audience members to reach out and extend their pinkies toward her and repeat after her.
“I promise to move my body,” Lenae said. “I promise to keep my promise.”
She sure kept her end of the promise. Opening for British R&B and soul singer Jorja Smith’s Lost & Found tour. Lenae gallivanted across stage in her sequined black dress and boots, maintaining a pleasantly upbeat and vibrant tone to start out the night. She and Smith performed to a sold-out crowd at The Wiltern – Smith’s second show in Los Angeles this month, after taking the stage at Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival a couple weeks ago. Both Smith and Lenae delivered impressive performances, ensuring that the night was filled with plenty of soulful delights.
While Lenae’s vocals didn’t come across quite as crisp and polished as they do on her recordings, her animated stage presence and bright character certainly made up for any technical issues. Lenae was at her strongest vocally on songs like “Sticky” and “Closer (Ode 2 U),” which featured complex runs at the highest part of her vocal range.
She closed out her half of the show with a fan favorite: “Free Room.” With its iconic bass line giving the tune a nice, sort of outer space-themed vibe, the song transitioned her set out well, keeping audience members on their feet as they prepared for Smith to take the stage later.
At about a quarter past 9 p.m., Smith waltzed onto the stage in a sequined dress, featuring a campy, beach-inspired design with a martini glass, a rainbow and a starfish. Though she was dealing with a bout of tonsillitis that night, her affliction was nearly unnoticeable in her performance. Over a background of twinkling piano keys and a steady drumbeat, Smith launched into the first song of the night, “Lost & Found,” with an acute level of confidence and comfort.
Her voice, just ever-so-slightly raspier than usual, boomed throughout the venue as she hit every note with the utmost precision. Throughout the night, her voice did grow a tad bit scratchier – especially on songs like “Where Did I Go?” – even though it never detracted much, if at all, from her set.
Smith’s set list mainly featured songs off her debut studio album, “Lost & Found,” though she did sprinkle in a couple of older tunes, as well as “I Am,” which appears on the soundtrack of “Black Panther.” As she performed the latter, deep red and purple lights shimmered behind her, lending the stage a rather sinister air – fitting for such a dark and haunting ballad about getting over one’s fear of change.
As she strutted around the stage – engaging in brief dance interludes during which she slowly twisted her hips and basked in the audience’s uncontrollable roars – her prowess made it difficult to believe that Smith, 21, is merely college-aged. Throughout the show she exuded a level of self-assurance that one would expect more from a seasoned veteran of the stage than a relative newcomer to the music industry.
Smith ended the main part of her set with one of her most popular numbers, “Blue Lights,” with the bright lights behind her emulating those of emergency vehicles. When Smith left the stage, the audience roared in applause, eagerly awaiting an encore. After a bit of cheering, her pianist came back on stage and began playing a brief solo on the keyboard before Smith walked back on.
It was just her and the pianist for the first number of the encore – a stripped back rendition of “Don’t Watch Me Cry.” Though the venue was quite tightly packed, it felt as if Smith was the only person in the room as she crooned the slow song over bright piano chords – all eyes were on her.
The final song of the night, “On My Mind,” began at a slower pace than most audience members might be used to, considering the popularity of the song’s peppy and quick-moving electronic recording. However, once the final notes of the first chorus finished reverberating throughout the venue, causing the ground to vibrate vigorously, Smith and her band immediately jumped into the more well-known version of the song, closing out the night on the electrifying and vibrant note on which it began.