Jessie Ware is a babe, a seductress. She may have rolled with Sampha, SBTRKT, Disclosure, and Joker, but on February 6th all it took was a crisp click of her fingers and a slight dip of her hips to hush an entirely packed-out Beresford hotel.
Nobody dared to look away.
Jessie stood centre stage, the smoky backlight accentuating her curves (causing each girl’s palm to sweat slightly inside her boyfriend’s hand.) A few more clicks and then, without anyone breathing a word, Ware kicked off an hour of silky, down-tempo R&B descants from her debut album Devotion.
Three tracks in, still nobody dared to look away.
After catching some of her footage from Laneway Festival, I walked into the gig confident that this South London scarlet could pump a ballad. Admittedly, I’d put Jessie into the “typical bellowing R&B” basket, but as she travelled through her first track, Sweet Talk, I was impressed at her ability to cut short of that cringe-worthy vampy riffing. Following with Wildest Moments and Night Light, Ware sustained this vocal firepower, range, and most importantly RESTRAIN, placing her on a plateau of maturity that evades most artists on their first album.
Ware’s humble nature also wasn’t something I’d anticipated, especially against such powerful lyrics and presence (few apart from J-Lo can rock a top bun and gold hoops.) In between tracks she repeatedly thanked the audience and her band members, and if your heart wasn’t warmed by her lyrics, her sense of humour took care of that. She was funny, tender and gorgeous – making note to apologise to a girl that she met at Laneway Festival who said that ‘her (Wares) songs made her think of her cheating ex-boyfriend’.
Jokes and ex-boyfriends aside, the continuation of her set saw Ware explore a more poppy sound, reminiscent of the 80s, though weird and warped enough to sound entirely of the moment. If You’re Never Gonna Move was my particular favourite of the night, sending us on a sunlit metaphorical walk (well, semi sun-lit, she is from South London.)
Long before the end of her performance, I was completely assured that I could remove Jessie from my aforementioned “bellowy” basket. This was a redefinition of soul combining both nostalgia and freshness — a woman with winged eyeliner playing warped electronica. With one last jeer and a fan’s final attempt to get Ware back to his place (512 Crown Street!) she closed with Running, and, despite being boyfriend-less, this one even made MY palms sweaty.