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30th November 2021

Joy Crookes’ Skin live in Manchester

Emily Turvey reviews London-based singer-songwriter Joy Crookes’ debut album tour concert at Academy 2
Joy Crookes’ Skin live in Manchester
Photo: Charlie Owen @ Wikimedia Commons

A rainy, otherwise uneventful Sunday evening saw London based singer-songwriter Joy Crookes bring her debut album tour, Skin, to Manchester. Thanking everyone for coming out on “the day of rest”, Crookes arrived on stage with an ease and grace that she maintains throughout the rest of her set. As she sips, ever consistent, from her Cherry B, Crookes looks relaxed before beginning a powerful, emotive and energetic performance to the sold-out crowd in Academy 2.

The fifth date on her UK album tour, Crookes has a quietly confident aura as she stands centre stage surrounded by her four male bandmates. Beginning her first track, her soulful, captivating tone fills Academy 2, and the crowd are somewhat stunned into silence by the live edition of her voice.

It is not surprising that Crookes, with her powerful voice, careful and intricate song-writing and down to earth personality, has amassed such a loyal fanbase. The crowd sing along to every song, whether one of her more upbeat songs or the selection of songs she aptly warns is the “heartbreak section”.

She is very much in charge of her audience, controlling the mood and tone through her carefully curated setlist. When not enough enthusiasm and energy is given to one of her more upbeat tracks, ‘Trouble’, Crookes waves her hand quickly to the band to restart. It pays off, and the crowd belt out the first few lines. She apologises for telling everyone off but reassures it’s simply just her way of “showing love”.

Further apologies come before another upbeat number, ‘London Mine’, when Crookes warns the crowd that, despite being in Manchester, she is about to sing about her love for London. The crowd playfully respond with an enthusiastic “boo”, which is only made funnier by the number of southern students that make up the crowd in Academy 2.    

Although, if Crookes is to apologise for her reference to London, she probably needed to apologise for every song she has ever written: her powerful and personal song-writing very much finds its foundations in her experiences growing up in South London, and in Crookes’ Bangladeshi and Irish heritage. It’s a theme that runs throughout her work, and ties together her debut album, aptly titled ‘Skin’.

The appropriate culmination of both her album and her performance in Academy 2 comes towards the end of her set, as she launches into the track ‘Power’. It is here that Crookes’ voice comes into her own, and she becomes illuminated on stage with harsh bright lighting that shifts between clashing colours. As she sings out the last few verses, which include impactful, thought-out lyrics such as “melanin is not your enemy”, the crowd responds with a hushed, respectful silence before responding with an applause that not even Crookes can silence.

It would perhaps be too simplistic a summary, but a poetic powerhouse would be a good way to describe Joy Crookes’ debut album tour’s arrival in Manchester. A memorable, fun, powerful evening, that left me even more in awe of the pure, raw talent that Joy Crookes possesses.  


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