Livestream New York, NY
Players: Fiona Stocs-Lyons, drums; Lloyd Kikoler, bass; AJ Smith, guitar, keyboards, violin, vocals
Material: Bearing the fashion sensibilities of Chris Isaak and the swagger of Bruno Mars, AJ Smith is a pop artist infused with rock & roll sensibilities. He’s a millennial crooner built for female attention as much as the stage. Serving up stunningly catchy, smartly crafted tunes, Smith’s radio-ready material (minus the cursing) bears shades of blues, funk and soul. Billy Joel remains an obvious influence, as evidenced by Smith’s composition that bears the legend’s name. Smith’s EP from 2016, Brooklyn Nights, received significant airplay and admirers include the Eagles as well as the Piano Man himself.
Musicianship: While Smith’s talents are ample, supporting players on bass and drums bolster his skills live. Smith is able to switch effortlessly between electric and acoustic guitar, keyboards and even violin, the latter with which he exhibits his classical abilities. His voice, perfect for mainstream listeners, has significant range. Despite all this, Smith’s music doesn’t attempt to wow with fancy runs or cutting-edge instrumental excursions. Instead, his emphasis remains on laser-tight craftsmanship combined with searing emotion. The evening’s live mix was slick enough that passersby would be forgiven for believing it was an official recording.
Performance: Returning to the stage for the first time since March of 2020, Smith is a natural performer bolstered by camera-ready good looks and an easygoing stage presence. Presented by veeps.com, this professionally produced event was beamed to the world from the stage of New York’s Bowery Electric. Both camera work and lighting were slicker than an icy driveway. An attractive neon sign bearing the singer’s name reminded viewers of whom they were watching. During several songs, his backing players were excused, allowing Smith an opportunity to prove his ability to carry an audience solo.
Summary: Born for the spotlight, Smith possesses extreme confidence and talent to match. Musically speaking, he remains within conventional walls. Despite this artistically conservative bent, his yarns are brilliantly crafted, brimming with catchy elements and perfectly suited for a popular following. It might just be a matter of time before one of his irresistible tunes launches him to stardom. His recently released song, “Confetti,” a number that honors accomplishments achieved during our most difficult past year, could be the track to make that happen.