Every so often a new artist breaks onto the scene with a voice so timeless you’d think they have decades of experience. Andra Day is one of those artists. Discovered by Stevie Wonder, parallels have already been drawn between the American soul singer and jazz greats, including Billie Holiday and the late Amy Winehouse. Day is a rare talent in todays music industry. Her career first took off back in 2012 with a series of covers, including Jessie J’s “Mamma Knows Best” and Eminem’s “Lose Yourself”, leading to a deal with Warner Bros. Records. Things exploded in 2015 with the release of her Grammy nominated debut album Cheers to the Fall, whose lead single “Rise Up” was also nominated in the Best R&B Performance category. Day’s popularity has spiked thanks to her collaboration with Stevie Wonder on his 2015 holiday song “Someday at Christmas”. Still early in her career, Friday night was the perfect opportunity to catch Andra Day at the intimate, yet packed, Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre before she becomes a household name and moves onto belting out notes in stadiums around the world.
Throughout the month of March, Day is stopping in 16 North American cities on her own headlining tour before she opens for fellow soul singer, Leon Bridges, at a number of European and American shows. Tagging along for the current string of dates is Australian singer songwriter, Conrad Sewell, whose career has also taken off in the past year. His stripped down, acoustic set, began with his verses on Kygo’s “Firestone”, probably his most popular song to date. Playing a selection of songs off his All I Know EP, including the singles “Hold Me Up” and “Start Again”, the Aussie pop star had everything working for him Friday night. After a recent collaboration with Avicii for the new Coca-Cola anthem “Taste the Feeling”, keep an eye on Sewell, because he’s not going away anytime soon!
Shortly after 9:30, Day’s 4-piece backing band took the stage and joined the rest of the crowd anxiously awaiting for the night’s star to make an appearance. From the first notes of the show’s opening song “Forever Mine”, goosebumps shot through my body as the voice of an angel filled the Virgin Mobile Corona Theatre. Andra Day sounds incredible on her debut, Cheers to the Fall, but nothing prepared me for the amazing performance she gave Friday night. From the upbeat tracks “Honey or Fire” and “Gin & Juice (Let Go My Hand)”, where Day glided across the stage pushing her band to their limits, to the low-tempo “Rearview” that she sang only with the help of her extraordinary keyboard player, Sir Charles Jones, there’s no doubt she has the voice to sing it all. In addition to playing the majority of the songs off of her autobiographical debut, Andra Day kept to her roots with a number of covers that added to the conversation she was having with the audience. Covers included Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam” and Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” and “Thriller”, but none was introduced in quite the same way as Kendrick Lamar’s “No Make Up”. Talking about the insecurities she used to have about herself, Day took a second to remove all of her makeup while on stage and pass on her message about true beauty and what’s actually important in life. This was a reoccurring theme Friday night, as the wise beyond her years soul singer preached about unity and the strength behind one common voice. Urging us to spread our newfound positivity to all those we encounter in our everyday lives, Andra Day proved that not only does her voice sound amazing, but the message she is spreading holds an incredible weight as well.
Watch Andra Day’s NPR Tiny Desk Concert