Oct. 12 saw R&B singer Alice Smith deliver an astounding performance to a sold out Calderwood Hall. The concert was the second performance of the 2017–18 RISE concert series, put on by the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and Berklee College of Music. A unique venue, Calderwood Hall is built like a cube, with first floor seating and four levels of balconies overlooking the stage. Upon arrival, concertgoers were immediately given a taste of what was to come with DJ L’duke’s preshow of Smith’s biggest hits. The excitement in the air was evident, as the performance promised to be a big hit.
But first, the audience was treated to a soulful opening act by new talent Cedric Jackson II. Jackson, an alumnus of Berklee, showcased his extraordinary vocal abilities and musical variety, beginning with a vulnerable cover of Tony Bennett’s “Shadow of Your Smile” (1966) before transitioning into a more upbeat set. Singing a combination of covers and original pieces such as “Stay With Me” (2016) and “It’s Not You, It’s Me” (2017), Cedric Jackson II wowed the audience with his vocal prowess. His performance couldn’t be described as anything other than passionate and was met with approval from the crowd, if the roaring applause at the end of his set was anything to go by.
The concert broke for a short intermission after Jackson’s performance, which soon transitioned into an impromptu dance party due to a slight delay in setup. Led by two witty emcees, the majority of the audience — both young and old — were up and grooving to the beat of DJ L’duke’s thumping playlist. After a few minutes of letting loose, Alice Smith, wearing a slinky black dress and kitten heels, arrived with her band and a presence bigger than the room.
Jumping straight into her performance, Smith impressed off the bat with her incredible range of notes and ability to fill the room with or without the mic. Although no stranger to Boston, this was Alice Smith’s first performance at the Calderwood venue, which she later dubbed her favorite performance spot in Boston. She had no problem adjusting, though, moving from song to song flawlessly without so much as a moment’s break in between. As Smith sang, the energy, passion and emotions of her music were practically tangible.
Alicia Keys meets Andra Day meets Nina Simone, Smith’s voice was both piercing and gentle, loud and soft. In songs like “The One” (2013) and “Fool for You” (2013), Smith transitioned seamlessly from note to note, delivering bold performance after bold performance. Although largely performing pieces from her most recent album “She,” Smith also teased her upcoming album with single “Mystery.” “I’m almost finished with my next album,” she told the crowd, “I think I’ll call it ‘Mystery’ or something about mystery.”
An intimidating presence on the mic, Alice Smith could not have been more different in her disposition. Humble and soft spoken, Smith continued to thank the audience for coming throughout the show and charmed them with her playful banter. At one point, Smith even took a break to try and encourage a young audience member to come up and sing a song with her. Although a relatively well-known artist, Smith was delightfully down to earth.
Overall, the mood of the performance was refreshingly lighthearted and intimate, possessing a level of comfort unusual for concerts. It was over too soon, and after an unsuccessful attempt to get Alice back on the stage for an encore, the crowd began to leave. They won’t have long to wait for more music, though, as Smith herself projected the release of her new album to be soon. Altogether, Alice Smith continues to rise through the music industry and promises to become one of the next big names in R&B.