In the moments before Rita Ora took the stage at S.O.B.’s in the SoHo neighborhood of Manhattan last night, there was a palpable buzz in the air. The packed-to-capacity club had just patiently waited through a middling set from former OFWGKTA member Casey Veggies, and people were buzzing with anticipatory glee for a few reasons. Of course, people were excited to see the artist that is being described as “the new Rihanna” make her New York City debut, but we heard more than a few people in our immediate vicinity wonder aloud whether or not her mentor, one Mr. Sean “Jay-Z” Carter, would be making an appearance at the tiny club where artists like Kanye West, John Legend and Erykah Badu caught some of their first big breaks. Well, spoiler alert, Hova did not make an appearance, but by the end of Rita Ora’s 35 minute(ish) set, no one seemed to care.
Ora bounded onto the stage just a few minutes after 10 p.m. wearing an orange knit hat, a blue jacket, a white midriff-revealing crop top and black tights. Her outfit was colorful and playful, much like Ora’s personality, with a dash of Stefani-esque sexiness thrown in (that is to say, she’s an undeniable beauty that projects a certain wholesomeness). She led off with a song that we had not heard before, but one that contained the line “It’s the kind of beat that will make your face melt.” Normally, we associate the concept of facemelting to metal riffs, but in this particular case, her description of the roaring synths was entirely appropriate. Considering this was her first showcase in NYC, we expected to see a hint of nervousness from her when she first hit the stage, but that never came to fruition. Instead, she commanded the stage like a veteran rock star, prowling from side to side, even occasionally indulging in a bit of headbanging.