Jessie Ware is essentially a deconstructed pop star – one that has cut the crap, removed the glass facade and kept the impossible style that makes people want to idolise you. Through her honest songwriting, social media approach and onstage demeanour Ware makes you feel as if she’s your best-friend but then she opens her voice and makes you feel as if you should bow down in the presence of greatness.
Last night at a sold out show in New York we were in the presence of greatness. Not the Hyperbolic Beyonce as a higher-being type but the human type. One that lays all her flaws out on the table and yet still manages to deliver the most sophisticated, refined performance around while also making punters swoon, gasp and cry.
From the get go it’s clear that Ware’s show is going to be monochromatic. Dressed in all-black, the British songstress gives off a brooding presence while the white fabric draping from the ceiling creates some light without colour. Many performers can get lost in this kind of pared-back approach to their image. It’s one that can swallow you up and fade you into the background. Not Ware though. Her greatest strength live was her ability to standout and juxtapose her surrounding with a smack-full of personality.
Running introduced Ware to the music scene perfectly back in 2012 and last night it also introduced the show, creating a precursor for what was to come. Ware slid around the stage to slinky synths weaving her honey-silken vocals through elongated melodies. For the first part of the set it felt like she barely broke a sweat, moving from Champagne Kisses to Cruel to If You’re Never Gonna Move at a steady pace, choosing to slowly unleash her charm over the crowd. She barely spoke to the crowd during this beginning part, seemingly opting to let he music do the talking before opening her mouth and let out her brash English accent. When she did open her mouth it felt as if she’d made the room feel two people small. She gushed about how much she loved New York, called the American visa system a “pain in the arse” after she was left without a drummer last minute (Dornik stepped in to save the day) and swore at someone for ruining her segway into a song by yelling out the tracklist.
It was this switch between her beautifully slow-dancing songs and her kick about banter that made people gaze at her starry eyed and then laugh with her as if she was their best mate. Of course, there was more than just banter to enjoy. Her setlist, mostly made-up of songs from her most recent album Tough Love, perfectly showcased her approach to writing a subtle pop song and her soaring voice. Title track Tough Love was understated and dignified while song like Sweet Talk and Sweetest Song laid-down a creeping groove.
Collaborator Dev Hynes was in the audience and she used the opportunity to perform his co-write on the album Want Your Feeling. With warm keys driven by a funky guitar riff, Ware delivered one of the nights highlights making people dance with a song that sounds so unsuspecting. She prefaced it by saying that she’s written “some” of her best songs in NYC like that and Nicki Minaj’s The Crying Game. She joked that she didn’t want the latter so she said “there love you can have it,” to Nicki Minaj. We imagine the conversation might of gone a little bit differently.
There was plenty of love in the crowd too with Ware’s You & I (Forever) introduced with a successful marriage proposal which Ware celebrated by jumping around the stage. The groom-to-be had picked a perfect setting to propose almost of the night celebrated all facets of love from the rose-coloured charm of Champagne Kisses to the stupid-in-love notions of Keep On Lying.
Got to love a proposal man A photo posted by Jessie Ware (@jessieware) on
Ware proves that you can do a lot with very little. Refinery was key last night with Ware climbing a steady trajectory towards her epic closer which saw her go all-out vocally, along with the crowd who acted as backup singers. That closer was Say You Love Me, a track that shares similar qualities with Sam Smith’s Stay With Me and should’ve been her key to mainstream chart success.
Ware is undoubtedly one of the classiest singers around. She commanded the stage bereft of tricks and without any preconceived notions of how she wanted to portray herself. She’s an honest songwriter and an equally honest performer and the crowd rewarded her for that in droves. As it should be she left the stage without giving an encore. Just another example of how little bullshit she trades in.