Estelle In Concert: 4/17/08 Sugar Hill Nightclub, Atlanta, GA

Life does not get easier when you're designated the next “it girl” in the music industry. Overnight, expectations catapult from just delivering a good album to redefining your genre’s musical landscape. Fall short artistically or sales wise and you’re now overrated; a fraud created in a smoke-filled A&R room to deceive the public. With that pressure, UK songstress Estelle crossed the pond to promote her sophomore offering, The Shine.Seeking to make a huge first impression, Estelle launched her set with the lead first single “Wait a Minute (Just a Touch).” Over the screamin’ Jay Hawkins sample, Estelle coolly demonstrated her emcee skills as the crowd mimicked the chorus. Immediately following the song, Estelle lived up to her girl next door image by starting a night long dialogue with the audience. She revealed proudly that this album and her debut were crafted from her own experiences. She continued this motif by using personal hardships to introduce the triumphant “1980” and the somber “Crazy” off her debut The 18th Day.

Ever the self-deprecating artist, Estelle asked the crowd if they were familiar with her UK debut.“Yeah! Five people bought my first album!” She quipped after the scattered applause of a few fans. The audience laughed with the UK songbird as she further took light-hearted aim at the current downloading hardship that artists face. When casually mentioning the next song was “Magnificent” off the upcoming album, she was taken aback by the instant cheers from the crowd.“Aw damn, ya’ll got the bootleg already,” she laughed.Showing her “’80s baby” roots, Estelle had fellow crooner John Legend join her for a beautiful rendition of Michael Jackson’s “I Can’t Help It.” Trading lyrics from the classic record, both artists seized the opportunity to showcase their talents. The two vocalists improvised the Stevie Wonder penned track, using lyric variation and afro-melismas to the delight of the audience.

With trips down memory lane for her own and other catalogues complete, Estelle brought us back to the present with her biggest hit to date, the Kanye West assisted “American Boy.”Again showing her improvisational skills, Estelle turned the second half of the song into a call and response jam session with the audience. Dancing her way the song’s conclusion, “E-Boogie” left to a stirring ovation from the crowd.

For many UK artists, they only have one very precious chance to make a good impression to American ears. With her confessional approach to music, Estelle also offers her very soul with her art. And regardless of sales or critical acclaim, that’s all she’ll need to continue to shine.