Jessie Ware isn’t cut from the same cloth as most of today’s powerhouse female singers. Rather than aping the melismatic overtures and excessively dramatic runs made famous by the Mariahs and Christinas of the world (and that, sadly, have become omnipresent in shows like The Voice and The X Factor), Ware fully understands when the time is right to lay back in the pocket, vocally, and when to unleash her seductively strong voice. This ability has earned her many well-deserved comparisons to Sade, and propelled her debut LP, Devotion, to the top of many critics’ Best of 2012 write-ups.
The 28-year-old British soul singer launched a whirlwind, two-stop, cross-country showcase at The Box in New York City last night —she’ll perform in Los Angeles on December 13 before returning to the United States for a proper tour this January— and was the recipient of rapturous applause throughout the course of her 10 song, 50 minute set (including some from You Oughta Know artist Sia, who we spotted sitting in a booth directly adjacent to the stage). Her sound fuses Blue Lines era Massive Attack style atmospherics with sultry R&B grooves which, on wax, serves as the perfect backdrop for those evenings when it’s imperative to chill. Live, however, Ware’s voice reaches dimensions that aren’t entirely present on her album. On “Swan Song,” for instance, her pleas of “Help me to escape” were given entirely new emotional resonance when Ware shifted her pitch in a dramatically different way than she does on the record, specifically as a means of intensifying the feelings coursing through her veins.
Ware didn’t show much in the way of nerves during her North American debut last night, which is probably a testament to the fact that she’s been out touring Europe with this record since the summer. Her on-stage banter was refreshing and honest, and alternated between bewildered praise for some of NYC’s most identifiable icons (Woody Allen, Lena Dunham), throwing props to one of her most vocal supporters, Katy Perry (“Katy Perry’s been well good to me”), and dishing a bit of dirt on some brewing hip-hop beef she’s gotten mixed up in. As she explained last night, “I had to change the title of (“110%”) because Big Pun‘s family wasn’t being cool about it … That’s the last time I write a song for you, Big Pun!” (If you’re wondering what to call “110%” now, its new name is “If You’re Never Gonna Move.”)
Jessie Ware’s solo debut was released by PMR Records overseas in August, but will be officially released here in the United States by Cherrytree Records in 2013; many Spotify users, including Jessie herself, noticed that her album recently disappeared from the streaming service in anticipation of the January release of an EP’s worth of material. If you haven’t heard the album yet (which will definitely be at or near the top of this author’s 2012 Best Of list), it’s definitely worth seeking out, either now or in January. And while many of Ware’s January tour dates have already sold out, there appear to be a few dates where you can still get your hands on tickets; might we be so bold as to suggest you pick some up? Considering that Jessie Ware one of the most promising new voices to come on the scene in some time, we can hardly wait to see and hear more from her in 2013.
SETLIST: “Devotion” / “Night Light” / “If You’re Never Gonna Move” (formerly “110%”) / “If You Love Me (Brownstone cover)” / “Sweet Talk” / “Swan Song” / “What You Won’t Do For Love” / “No To Love” / “Wildest Moments” / “Running”
[Photo: Brooklyn Vegan’s Instagram]