Fresh from the UD Flames Collective, Incubator project and UD Talent Development programme, alumni Molly Elizabeth headlined the Camden Assembly on the 29th November, with support from her UD peers Amie Blu and NAYANA. Jojo Jones reports on the night…
I’m directed up a winding staircase to the old pub building of the Camden Assembly where I’m greeted by graphics of Molly Elizabeth’s face and the name of one of her releases, ‘Cruel Intentions’, painted across posters and canvas bags that are available to buy. There is a welcoming buzz in the air. I can feel the audience’s excitement for the young vocalist and fellow UD pals Amie Blu and NAYANA to take the stage. The support for these rising stars is palpable too and I can see people beaming at Molly as she mills throughout the crowd prior to performing, welcoming everyone in. The cold weather (or the more apt cruel intentions) of winter means that the audience stays wrapped up in their coats and scarves throughout the night, even as a disco ball brings warm pink light, radiating throughout the room. The stage is littered with roses, I see roll-on perfume being added to wrists, Diet coke being drunk from plastic glasses, and initials written on sneakers with marker pen. The whole atmosphere makes me think of first loves and the passion you feel in your youth, perfectly setting the scene for these young rising stars to stun me with their performances.
First to take the stage is Amie Blu, who humbly sits centre stage with a single electric guitar accompanying her voice. Amie Blu has a quiet confidence saying “‘thanks guys” after every song, seeming to be surprised at the raucous applause she receives, which I can say with confidence she most definitely deserves. Amie Blu certainly delivers stunning renditions of her original songs, her baby hairs bathed in blue lights as a white rose draped her mic stand. The final song, ‘All For You’, was a highlight and seemed like an obvious single for her, which you can listen to here.
NAYANA was up next, opening her set with a Jorja Smith cover, because, she said, she’s also been dealing with some similar lessons that Jorja sings about in Teenage Fantasy. It makes me happy that young girls have figures like Jorja Smith to look up to, who sing honestly and openly about their feelings, fears and loves. I admire NAYANA for tackling a J-Money song too, beautifully adding her London twang and deep soulful tones to the track. NAYANA feels at home on stage, talks to the audience with ease, and occasionally sips tea from a flask she took with her on stage, just like Adele did recently at her Palladium An Audience With Adele show. NAYANA also tackles important topics on her song ‘Skins’ which was written in response to the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. I have heard her perform this song before at the UD Industry Takeover event, and the depth of meaning and gravity with which NAYANA performs it washed through the audience and through myself all over again. You can hear that this song in particular comes from somewhere deep in her soul. NAYANA closes out her set by spelling her Instagram handle out to the rhythm of a guitar accompaniment, a joyous and particularly Gen Z way of making sure the audience remembers her presence and her socials.
Now for the main event of the night, the stage is filled out by Molly Elizabeth’s full band including a saxophone player. You can’t miss Molly in her black diamante studded Juicy Couture tracksuit and white Air Forces. The stage is bathed in red waiting for their front woman and as she ascends the stage her voice seems to come out of nowhere. Molly also previously performed at the UD Industry takeover event and she again seems graceful on stage and swells with excitement, energy and smiles; if she was nervous at all it doesn’t come across.
Molly’s soulful tones fill the room and when I look behind me, I see the audience beaming back at her. Molly waltzes and bounces through the tracks from her newly released EP Cruel Intentions, giving new meaning to a lot of her incredibly mature lyrics. I am so impressed that, like all of the performers on this night, they have the maturity and capability to express themselves so eloquently through lyrics, Molly singing about no second chances in life, and, my favourite, ‘I wanna be free to be me’. There is a lovely cover of another Jorja Smith song ‘On my Mind’, some expert solos from the band, but the highlight has to be her song ‘Heart Eyes’, which she also is asked to do an unplanned encore of at the end of the show. The baseline of this one has everyone doing a little shimmy and a groove, which Molly soaks up, catching the eye of one of her friends in the audience and smiling. Other songs like ‘Cruel Intentions’ are where she really shines. The band riffs into a Kaytranada verse which Molly tackles vocally with an adult sense of calm, demonstrating again a vocal maturity beyond her years. Molly’s encore of ‘Heart Eyes’ comes as she smoothly navigates encouragement from the audience and instructs her band to follow her lead. After coming off stage she is immediately swarmed with people congratulating her, as they should, as this singer’s future is as bright as the house lights that come up soon after she leaves the stage (where half the audience is still hanging around to get a chance to chat with her).
The level of self-awareness from all the performers this evening wow’d me, some of them still in teenagedom. It makes me proud and excited for the next generation of singers – and people – to come through and show us what they’ve got.
I look forward to the next show – and more music from Molly, Amie and NAYANA.
Click here to apply to the UD Incubator programme.
Stream Molly’s EP here: https://open.spotify.com/album/6AWSAFGksTbUeRaKhSUYLE?si=2qE2cndJRba16VuCutPl8g
NAYANA’s music here: https://open.spotify.com/artist/00NBMq8AyeGVvBx6I0ACSo?si=IKCn_RtLTTe_eTDRfq9CuA
Listen to Jojo Jones on the first Wednesdays of the month 12-2pm on Voicesradio.co.uk