Live Review: AJ Smith

Music Connection

Andrea Beenham

November 28, 2022

Material: Sharing music from 2018 through to his new 2022 tracks, as well as two unreleased singles, AJ Smith shared his incredible musicality and vocal artistry with a full house at The Hotel Café. From his opening vocal growls and smooth octave leaps in “Cooler,” and gorgeous melody lines of ode to narcissism, “Better,” Smith is the real deal, presenting a rare combination of extraordinary talent, wrapped in a sassy, confident, and intriguing presence–beneath a genuinely gracious exterior.

Musicianship: Near-perfect vocals add to a beautifully simple backdrop of sound from invested, sensitive drummer (and songwriting collaborator) Dru, along with Smith’s guitar, bass, keyboard, and violin stylings. Smith’s stunning vocal lines and falsetto add deliciously to his playful, thought-provoking lyricism. His phenomenal ease of playing is especially clear in the animated intensity of the elasticized ballad, “Billy Joel,” as well as the theatrical vocal lines and tight key and drum unison on “Confetti.” With a vocal quality sounding like a combination of Adam Lambert and Freddie Mercury—especially on unreleased track, “Drama”—Smith is an absolute dynamo at garnering investment and participation from his audience.

Performance: Smith and Dru create absolute magic on “Misfits,” with its stripped-down rhythmic guitar and hi-hat opening, fabulous rimshot/vocal section, and retro drum vibe with falsetto. The tight, solid powerhouse duo delivered a super-catchy sound, with fantastic cutoffs and a clipped offbeat ending. “Rush”—with Smith playing violin (alternating between tremolo and pizzicato) while singing—was unbelievable. His second unreleased track, “Best Parts,” presented warm vocals over a building storyline of love lost, before bringing the crowd together on “Nobody” and “WAGD (We’re All Gonna Die),” the new single co-written by DRU. The finale showcased brilliant vocal control, octave leaps, and even more glorious melodic tension, with the crowd clapping and singing along throughout.

Summary: Smith’s ease and comfort on stage make it easy to forget the fantastic talent he possesses, outshone only by his ability to create rapport with the audience and build palpably tense anticipation through his singing and playing. Between his great energy, catchy loops, and exquisite melody lines, his poignant writing and dramatic anthems make for seductively relatable songs.

The Hotel Café  Hollywood, CA

Contact: Fiona Bloom,

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