Photograph by Matthew McAndrew taken at the O2 ABC, Glasgow, 8th March
British females are leading the way. Ever since Adele took over the world with record-breaking album sales and endless awards, a flurry of talented ladies have been making their mark in music; none more so than Jessie Ware.
The South-Londoner began her journey as a backing-singer for school-mate Jack Peñate but her vocals demanded more than a backing spot, and it was masked-producer SBTRKT, another London resident, who heard the potential and secured her effortlessly soulful voice for his 2010 track ‘Nervous’, before repeating the trick a year later on his self-titled debut.
Since then she has released a widely acclaimed album (Best Fit’s album of 2012 no-less), toured America, is coming to the end of a full headline UK tour and appears to feature on almost every festival poster around. She found her niche by embracing audible influences like Barbra Streisand and Whitney Houston and, although it is hard not to focus solely on the quality of her voice, make no mistake, there are songs to match.
The culmination of this UK tour is two sold out shows at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and, following support from exciting R&B Geordie Lulu James and the vastly talented Laura Mvula, there was a marked excitement – almost pop-star like. It reaches boiling-point as lights fade, delay-heavy guitar and splashing cymbals welcome a beaming Jessie to the stage. The neat, improvised build-up slips seamlessly into ‘Devotion’; the opening, title track from the record stands-out far more in this live environment, and immediately highlights the intense drum sound and tight guitar punctuation – indeed the quality of her band shines throughout.
There is an almost child-like enthusiasm to her performance as a number of tracks begin with a “I love this song” and ends with a proud smile and a genuine “thank you”. Excitable nattering between songs reveals a natural character and one that has had to work at, but now found comfort in the live environment. “I came 8th to Florence in a singing competition in Blackheath…”, brings full-on laughs from the venue and provides an Adele comparison, as this laid-back chatter is replaced by a juxtaposing voice – and what a voice it is. Added flourishes in ‘Swan Song’, the stripped-back ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’ and a strikingly ferocious note at the end of ‘Running’, which she closes with, display wonderful power as well as seductive poise.
Further endearing excitement comes to the fore as Jessie introduces her drummer to sing on ‘Valentine’, “He’s actually Michael Jackson!” she laughs as one of her early tracks sounds as accomplished as its more recent counterparts. The highlight of the show comes from a surprise, as the Goldsmiths Vocal Ensemble are welcomed on stage, and with a nod to musical theatre, bringing big backing and organised-chaos choreography to ‘Who Says No To Love’; “It’s like Sister Act 2!” Jessie beams.
We are treated to a new one as well; ‘Imagine It Was Us’ is a funk-fueled, disco number, showing off up-tempo versatility, before dedicating ‘Taking In Water’ to her brother in attendance adds emotion to one of the album’s, and indeed the evening’s, stand-out songs. ‘If You’re Never Gonna Move’ and ‘Wildest Moments’ are sing-along favourites – she should really extend a microphone to the stalls.
Charming, loveable and astonishingly talented, Jessie Ware has everything in place to follow the leading ladies in music and you wouldn’t bet against her being as household a name as any of them. “I just wanna go for a drink with her, you know?” someone remarks on the way down Shepherd’s Bush – we know, we know.