British singer-songwriter Joss Stone has spent more than a decade selling out stadiums and arenas around the world. With over 14 million copies of her seven studio albums sold worldwide, Stone’s music has seen her win multiple accolades including a Grammy and two Brit Awards. Her appearance in Prishtina’s Zone Club on Saturday night was a bit of a come down to earth then for the 29-year-old who is used to sharing the stage with global stars such as Mick Jagger and Robbie Williams.
“Well isn’t this something,” she quipped, slightly bemused as she stepped out onto the tiny stage and surveyed the few hundred people before her, who by no means filled the Fushe Kosove venue. In Kosovo, it seems, her global super-stardom isn’t quite what it is on either side of the Atlantic.
Stone was in Prishtina as part of her Total World Tour, in which she is attempting to become the first artist to perform a gig in every country of the world. With Kosovo still technically having the much-maligned asterix next to its name according to the United Nations, she could have been forgiven for making her daunting schedule a little more manageable by skipping a place where her fan-base appears limited to a dedicated few.
However that wouldn’t really have been in the spirit of things. “The UN only recognises 196 [countries] but that depends on how you feel politically,” she told the London-based Evening Standard newspaper earlier this year. “I’m probably going to end up doing 204.”
If she was questioning that decision on Saturday as she took to the stage clasping a cup of herbal tea, she hid it well. Engaging throughout, Stone was quintessential British politeness and charm personified as she first warmed up the intimate crowd by teaching them some backing vocals, before wowing them with her mesmerizing voice.
Her full stylistic range was on offer in her acoustic set as she seamlessly switched between her newer material and the songs with which she originally made her name. Having first found fame as a precociously talented teenage soul sensation citing influences such as Aretha Franklin, her repertoire has gone through something of a transformation over the years, with ventures into both R&B and reggae — her latest album, “Water for Your Soul,” was named Billboard magazine’s top reggae album of 2015.
With Stone looking to collaborate with local artists in every place she visits, future albums may well be infused with even more world sounds and genres; upon arriving in Kosovo’s capital on Friday night, she sat cross-legged in the middle of Skanderbeg Square and accompanied Shpat Deda and Art Lokaj in a rendition of “N’shpirt m’ka rrite.” While she didn’t attempt anything quite so adventurous in Albanian in her main performance, she did rock out the occasional “faleminderit.”
Before playing in Israel in July, she told a local newspaper that she prefers to form her own opinion of a country once she gets there and not base it on anything that she’s heard beforehand. Doing so on such a flying schedule must limit opportunities for meaningful exploration, but with performances in Nis and Sarajevo already under her belt on her current tour, Stone demonstrated that she’s picked up at least one thing during her brief time in the region: “You’ve all got sexy voices because you all smoke; you fucking love a cigarette” she joked, before launching into one of her biggest hits, “Super Duper Love.”
Photos: Jack Butcher/K2.0