Joji blends fervent enthusiasm with somber lyrics at The Warfield 

Photo of Joji at his concert
Caroline Lobel/Staff

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Despite the melancholic melodies that compose Joji’s discography, the 29-year-old musician still manages to entertain large crowds, bringing audiences together to engage in evenings of glee. On Nov. 21, the young artist graced the stage of The Warfield Theatre in San Francisco, bridging spontaneous energy with songs reminiscent of heartbreak.

Before he was known as “Joji,” George Miller began his career on YouTube playing the character Filthy Frank — a satirical, albeit problematic personality within a comedy show that utilized offensive stunts and harmful stereotypes. In his YouTube channel’s description, Miller claims “Filthy Frank is the embodiment of everything a person should not be.” Miller has since stepped away from YouTube and become a musical sensation, writing songs that he can confidently say reflect his true identity.

The artist’s latest album, Nectar, exposes Joji’s vulnerability through its lo-fi beats and lulling lyrics that express deep-rooted emotion, with a live tour for the album spanned only three cities: New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles. Given its brevity, fans from across the globe gathered at The Warfield, each expressing their shared devotion for the artist.

The opening notes of one of Joji’s most popular songs from Nectar, “Sanctuary,” kicked off the set, fueling the crowd with nervous excitement as the artist’s name appeared in large red letters on the screen above the stage. By the time Joji walked on-stage and began to sing the track’s morose lyrics, audience members were already in tears, holding hands and swaying with one another, as the musician softly sang “Hold me oh so close/ ‘Cause you never know/ Just how long our lives will be.” 

Behind the artist was a large screen that played music videos and aesthetically pleasing clips that corresponded with each track. Though this design was slightly distracting at times, it generally aided the artist’s set. The stage came alive during tracks such as “Ew” in which red and orange light basked over the artist as clips of molten lava emerged on the screen. Joji’s voice poured over viewers’ ears with this same gradual sense of intensity, swelling with poignancy as the set progressed. 

Joji’s vocals were smooth and clear, reverberating the power behind each song. The setting felt quite intimate, as the theater rumbled with collective mutterings of sorrowful lyrics. During one of his slower tracks, “Mr. Hollywood,” Joji took notice of the powerful recitation of his lyrics, taking a brief pause to listen to the crowd and softly uttering, “Okay San Francisco!” 

Moments like these held the most power during the show; connections between Joji and his audience united the theater, making the concert an emotionally invigorating experience. However, not all of these moments were strictly poignant. Joji consistently made quirky jokes, added hearty screams to gut-wrenching lyrics and, surprisingly, used a giant slingshot to propel merchandise into the crowd. Together, the audience yelled “One, two, three… send it!” with fervor, allowing both Joji and the crowd to take a break from exposing their vulnerabilities and, instead, revel in the spontaneity of live music. 

This enthusiasm proceeded into Joji’s final performance of the night — “Slow Dancing in the Dark.” As one of his most popular tracks, this performance touched the hearts of everyone in the theater, causing audience members to get on their feet and embark on one final stretch of emotional exploration. The finale was easily the highlight of the show; gorgeous live instrumentation and Joji’s angelic vocals flooded the theater, both energizing audiences and leaving them with tear-stained faces. 

Joji visibly thrived during this performance, as he chaotically lifted his microphone stand over his head, inviting audiences to sing along to the chorus. The energy in the room abounded with urgency as thousands of people sang along to the lyrical qualms of the impassioned artist. Despite the vehement reaction to this song, Joji yelled one final “San Francisco!” before leaving the stage, allowing audiences to reflect on the mix of emotions they had experienced — both the exhilaration of witnessing a highly energetic performer and the heartbreaking emotions that were spurred on by his music.

Sarah Runyan covers literature. Contact her at [email protected].