By all accounts, UK singer de jour Jessie Ware has just cause to be riding high. In the last week alone, she followed up her fantastic debut full length with a new EP, and made her first American television appearance on Fallon Wednesday night, where she received some help from The Roots. Not a bad way to kick off 2013 to say the least. As a result, Ware was understandably giddy during her performance Thursday evening at Manhattan’s Bowery Ballroom.
Musically, she falls somewhere in between the icy backbeats of The xx and the platinum-selling accessibility of Adele, but in between songs she was bubbly and banter-friendly with the sold out crowd. “So are you the people who bought all the bloody tickets in 30 minutes?” she asked with a thick British inflection after set opener, “Devotion”. There’s no studio trickery at work when it comes to Ware’s powerhouse set of pipes – the girl can sing. In fact, she relied more on her remarkably solid three-piece backing band than she did any sort of electronics. The guitar and rhythm section added warmth and sincerity to Ware’s chrome-lined studio sheen. The irresistible chorus of Devotion highlight “Night Light” especially benefitted by this setup, and was met by a raucous response from the audience.
Before launching into retro R&B gem “Sweet Talk”, she stopped to jokingly (I hope) reminisce that the last time she played NYC coincided with the death of Kim Kardashian’s cat, Mercy. As a tribute to the dearly departed feline, Ware dedicated the song to Kim and Kanye’s unborn child. Her charming banter made it easier to groove to dub-heavy Brownstone cover “If You Love Me” and the hip-hop-inspired “No To Love”. As she does on record, Ware jumped from decade to decade for inspiration as the tracks progressed. Sixties’ Motown blurred with 90’s house, aided by some touches of modern EDM. Her reverence for her sonic inspirations was made even more apparent when she pointed out mid-song that the prior day had been the late, great Aaliyah’s birthday.
She waited until the end of the set to break out our 11th favorite song of 2012, “Wildest Moments”. The bleary-eyed anthem made the 500 capacity Bowery Ballroom feel like Wembley Stadium. There’s always going to be something a little strange about gleefully dancing your ass off in public to such a bleeding, confessional song that details a wilting relationship, but that didn’t stop Ware’s zealous devotees. As the crowd belted out the final chorus of “Baby in our wildest moments, we could be the worst of all,” her mouth opened with an ear-to-ear grin.
“I knew you Americans would get it,” she declared before leaving the stage roughly 50 minutes after she first graced it. While humbly accepting a bouquet of flowers from a fan, you got the sense that if it weren’t for her limited discography, she would have shared more of the night with us.
Photography by Michelle Pathe.
Still Love Me
If You Love Me (Brownstone cover)
Taking on Water
What You Won’t Do For Love
No To Love