Words: Jennifer Lynn
Image: Neil Munro
The Mercury Prize may have been snatched from her reach by alt-J last week, but Jessie Ware’s performance was nothing short of electric at Glasgow’s King Tut’s on Wednesday night.
Playing to a sold-out audience of teens and twenty-somethings, Jessie kicked off with the soulful Still Love Me, a track from her top five debut album Devotion. Dressed in a black lace crop top and leather skirt with her glossy locks pulled back in her signature ponytail, Jessie may look like a klassier member of the Kardashian Klan, but there are no airs and graces with this London girl. Chatting confidently with the crowd as if they were old friends, she apologised to those with a less-than-perfect view, before contemplating “stage diving” so they could see her better. “Wait, I don’t mean that,” she laughed. “I need to go crowd surfing! I’m so rock ‘n’ roll…”
Single 110% was next on the bill, a quirky tune with a Lily Allen (or should I say Lily Cooper) edge, which also comes across in Ware’s conversation. Perhaps it’s just the London connection, as Jessie definitely doesn’t seem the type to slag off any fellow stars, but there was something about her cheeky banter that reminded me of the raucously loveable Lily. Unfortunately, through no fault of her own, there were sound troubles throughout the song which meant we couldn’t hear those amazing vocals for much of the track.
Thankfully the issues were resolved for Jessie’s current single Night Light, which sounded even more impressive in the flesh than it does when gracing Fearne Cotton’s Radio 1 show. Backed by a fairly standard band set-up of drummer, guitarist and bass player, Jessie’s powerful soul vocals command serious attention, even with the heavy use of reverb throughout the majority of her songs. Her album’s title track Devotion was up next, and despite sounding pitch perfect to the audience, Jessie popped her earpieces out as she was still struggling to hear herself.
Pausing for another chat, she announced that all of her band were single, and welcomed the ladies in the house to hop on the stage if they fancied a dance with any of them. Although I was more than a little tempted to take up residence beside the drummer, it was a young man named Charlie who ended up centre stage during eighties-influenced track Sweet Talk, after catching Jessie’s eye with his enthusiastic dancing. Entertaining the crowd with his moves and miming, Charlie remained onstage throughout the song, with Jessie clearly enjoying his presence as much as the rest of us. Only in Glasgow…
After all the excitement of Charlie’s duet, Jessie slowed things down with a heart wrenching cover of Brownstone’s If You Love Me, followed by her own track Taking In Water. Of all of her songs, Taking In Water is the stand-out epic movie moment, a climatic sort of track you could imagine playing during a devastating break-up scene with the female lead clinging on for dear life.
Commenting on her own versatility as an artist, Jessie labelled her musical style “schizophrenic”, due to her transitions between upbeat anthems and these more emotive moments. Slipping back into happy mode, Jessie’s reworked version of Bobby Caldwell’s classic What You Won’t Do For Love was a definite crowd pleaser, with the Tut’s audience singing and dancing throughout.
Reaching the end of her thoroughly enjoyable set, Jessie’s biggest hit to date, Wildest Moments, provoked the loudest reaction of the night. Slightly emotional after the huge response, in which she was able to skip a verse thanks to the crowd’s lyrical knowledge, she declared, “I love it when people sing along, and this is my last song Running. I don’t do encores, I think they’re stupid!”
Exiting the stage to deafening cheers, Glasgow is now impatiently awaiting Jessie’s return to the city in March. It’ll be interesting to see how she adapts her performance for the larger stage at the O2 ABC, but, gimmicks or no gimmicks, the current best voice in British soul is guaranteed to shine through.
Jessie Ware plays Glasgow’s O2 ABC on Friday 8th March 2013. For tickets click here.