Jessie Ware at The Sugar Club on the 5th of November 2012
The problem with seated venues, is that there are seats in them. But tonight in the Sugar Club, it’s as if every seat was carefully installed with Jessie Ware in mind. Within surroundings made for her, she knows it as well as we do, chirping “I love this venue. I feel like I’m in a David Lynch film!”. She’s not wrong.
Cutting a dominant figure in a jacket with shoulder pads that would need their own architect and an antenna bun sitting on her head, Ware enters the room with an apprehensive wave. It’s the opening date of her first ever tour, so she could be forgiven for being slightly retiring. If anything, she should keep it up. There’s something charming about nervous giggles immediately proceeded by an enchanting rendition of the smoky Devotion – the title track of her Mercury-nominated debut. With some dodgy sound levels, Ware seemed to take it as a test, out-singing herself to compensate. Not a bad feat for Jack Peñate’s former backing singer.
Like shoving your under-appreciated friend on stage and watching them do what you thought they were capable all along, Ware takes her welcome with genuine disbelief — not a Taylor Swift surprised face in sight. “Enough chatter, we’ve lots to get through” she giggles, probably acknowledging that she sounds like a schoolteacher to a class. But it’s kind of like that, in that it’s a two-way thing, a friendly atmosphere.
A faulty start to 110% brings the excited cheers back down to earth as her microphone malfunctions. A quick laugh and she’s back to purring them out. Tones are mellow when needed, unreal when stretched to their limits, but always effortless. It’s rare a starlet sounds exactly like her recorded product, if not slightly better. When the chorus kicks in, Jessie isn’t ‘dancing on her own’ anymore, as a group bop by the front of stage, claiming coy smiles from Ware—truly integrating with the crowd like she’d just stood up at a family do to churn out a few bangers. Whether pointing out loved-up couples in the crowd, swooning when an impromptu ‘prom sway’ occurs with a lovey couple during the elated Wildest Moments, or spreading the dreamy romance of Nightlight—she was watching us as much as we were glaring back.
As Ware gets more accustomed to the audience, the funk of Sweet Talk is like Sade showing off, while the surprise of the night is a sultry cover of If You Love Me, the hazy 90s hit by Brownstone. A new air is brought to ’old’ favourites, with the sultry echoes of Taking In the Water and Sampha-produced What You Won’t Do For Love brought down to soft instrumentals. An overhauled version of No To Love, glitters with 80s R’N’B funk guitar, gearing us up for the inevitable ass-off-seats finale. Vibrations cause a nearby glass to literally jive off the table and smash – that’s some sorcery right there.
Within Ware still lingers a backing singer, shying out of the spotlight, maybe feeling a bit stunned that it is eventually hitting her. But it’s endearing, with time will come confidence, but for now her vocals shine with the ego she lacks—refusing to be anything but the centre of attention. Finale Running, is probably the most action the poor Sugar Club has gotten in a while. The bloated crowd on their feet, one guy screaming bloody murder of his love for Ware, the dedicated dancers still skimming the stage. Backing singers simply don’t have that charisma, but she still acts like it’s a once off.
“I don’t do encores, so there’s no encore. Get home safe everyone!”. Fans swarm the stage and she welcomes them like old friends. With the lights up and the David Lynch movie over, it’s only a matter of time before Ware progresses to the big Cameron productions. But we kind of hope she goes the Sundance route instead.
Jessie Ware Photo Gallery
Photos: Sean Smyth