It’s not every day that the daughter of two A-List, Hollywood celebrities headlines one of Camden’s iconic sweat boxes.
Willow Smith has been releasing music since she was just fifteen years old, which was only six years ago. Yet 2021 feels very much hers. Her fourth record ‘Lately I Feel Everything’ dropped this summer, and marked feet firmly in the world of rock, with sugary Avril Lavigne-esque emo charged anthems at one end, and soaring, ethereal Deftones alt metal masterpieces at the other. The former even made an appearance on the record, alongside Blink 182’s Travis Barker and grunge pop cult faves Cherry Glazerr.
With support slots coming from pristine goth barbie Cassyette, and blink and you’ll miss him Jaden Smith - the duality of these two felt oddly, and maybe even uncomfortably, reflective of Willow’s own set.
The 21 year old beams as she strides around the stage of this 1,500 capacity venue, and it’s no surprise why, you would be too if you had this many adoring fans. Glancing at the crowd, a concoction of elder emos and Gen Z Tik Tokers, fans have been fizzing since doors opened, and now their phones are alight, gasping to capture every single moment.
Understandably so, Willow’s stage presence is captivating; a combination of silly and juvenile (peak her beanie hat with animal ears, taking a moment to smoke a joint and knocking over her mic stand too), yet simultaneously demure. Her vocal range is astounding, as she effortlessly flitters between slack jawed drawls and elongated high notes.
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She is unquestionably a voice of a generation, an openly queer and polyamorous young woman, she gets the crowd to proclaim “I am love, we are love!” after kicking the set off with the bubblegum pop punk hit ‘Transparent Soul’. It makes you grateful that teenage misfits of today have someone like her to look up to.
Though very much establishing her as a new, and very much needed, face in alternative rock, Willow doesn’t forget about her back catalogue. A metamorphic cross-genre talent, songs from her latest record like the booming ‘Lipstick’ and the safety blanket ‘GROW’, are weaved in alongside older tracks like ‘Summertime in Paris’ (featuring her brother who joined her on stage), and an encore of the grooving neo-soul pop of ‘Wait A Minute!’.
However, there’s a lingering sense of control in the air. Willow is accompanied on stage by a band of middle-aged men (presumably session musicians) and industry vultures on the venue’s balcony. When looking at her set for what it is, it feels slightly haphazard. What could have easily been an enigmatic silhouette with a purpose to illuminate her, instead feels lazily stagnant. Willow has to make up for it, and thankfully just about does with her sunny disposition and zeal. You really have to give it to her though, when thinking about the industry she is very much part of, but seems to defy in every aspect of her character.
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Words: Jasleen Dhindsa
Photography: Katie McLellan-Salisbury
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