Friday 15 March 2013

Jessie Ware @ O2 Shepherd's Bush

Jessie Ware isn’t your typical popstar.  Her elegant, soulful music is matched by her sophisticated, classy performance that oozes sensuality.  Yet when the cheers of the Shepherd's Bush crowd hit a crescendo, her face cracked into a smile and she couldn’t help herself but giggle.  Ware has earned a legion of devoted fans, but fame has clearly come unexpectedly for the young London singer.  As she spoke candidly of her collaborators, danced through the songs with quirky facial expressions and joked about having hair in her mouth whilst singing, the sophisticated façade fell away.  Underneath she’s just one of us – utterly personable and humbled by her success.  With the audience filled with her friends and family for this, the last UK date of her tour, it ensured a celebratory atmosphere brimming with pride.

The party was given a noisy start from support act Man Like Me.  The characterful spoken vocals from frontman Johnny Langer may be an acquired taste, but some Cee-Lo esque vocals from friend Ade and the addition of live brass ensured some catchy melodies above the infectious dance and afrobeats.  Bounding around the stage and performing some comedic dance routines, Man Like Me seemed like an odd choice of support act (Laura Mvula – who supported the rest of the tour – was sorely missed), but when Ware revealed she used to be a member of the band, it was yet another example of friendly support.

Ware’s set comprised tracks from her Mercury nominated debut ‘Devotion’, as well as Valentine (a duet with her talented drummer, rather than original vocalist Sampha) and, best of all, a new track Imagine It Was Us described by Ware as a “summer tune”, with definite shades of 80s Madonna.  With the live band, her already excellent songs were given new lease of life: If You’re Never Gonna Move skittered breezily over the audience; Still Love Me had an almost grungy feel with live guitars; and No To Love included singing from the Goldsmith’s Vocal Ensemble for a dash of musical theatre appreciated by no-one more than Ware herself.  Her sublime, faultless vocal soared effortlessly through the full spectrum of funk grooves and heartfelt ballads.

And those heartfelt ballads are very personal songs, made all the more so by the presence of her friends and family.  As she shed a tear, overwhelmed by the crowd’s support, it was clear how much this gig meant to her – it was an honour to be a part of it.