Jessie Ware – The Bowery Ballroom – January 17, 2013
Having gotten herself on a few end-of-year lists, British songstress Jessie Ware definitely had a good 2012, and this year is already shaping up to be great. Some may already be familiar with her vocals, which have graced several SBTRKT tracks. Her debut album, Devotion, has been described by BBC Music’s Mike Driver as “the sort of sophisticated, soulful pop record that comes along all too rarely, a collection that never hides the heart on its sleeve. Down-tempo it may be, but no listener will come away downcast.” And there was certainly exuberance in the air last night at a sold-out Bowery Ballroom.
Out of darkness and clad in all black, Ware stepped onto the stage purring the lyrics to “Devotion.” Upon the song’s conclusion, the Brit doled out high fives to the front row and exclaimed, “It’s going to be a good night.” Indeed it was as she had the crowd grooving to “Night Light” and “110%.” Covering most of the material from her album, Ware peppered her set with quite a few memorable covers, including “Say It,” a collaboration with the Japanese duo BenZel on a Brownstone hit, plus Bobby Caldwell’s 1978 R&B single “What You Won’t Do for Love.” She even threw in a little of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” as an interlude on her song “No to Love.”
Halfway through the set, Ware cheekily dedicated “Sweet Talk” to Kanye West and Kim Kardashian’s unborn child. Her infectious banter with the rabid fans in the front row garnered her flowers from one admirer. After taking off her jacket for “Swan Song,” she became reflective about “Taking in Water,” which almost didn’t make the album, but Ware was glad it did as it was written for her brother. The singer-songwriter described what a pleasure it was to be accompanied by the Roots at a taping of Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Her mom, she revealed, was quite impressed by the drummer. Yeah, Questlove is pretty legit. Needless to say, Ware saved her hit single, “Wildest Moments,” for the end of the set. She was adamant about not playing an encore, leaving the audience with “Running.” There was no race to the exit as the house lights flipped on, but rather a lingering of folks soaking up every last bit of the evening. —Sharlene Chiu