Jessie Ware’s very brief four-date tour of the United States kicked off in our very own backyard at The Chapel in San Francisco last night with an intimate performance showcasing many of the songs from her latest album Tough Love (also released yesterday) along with the powerful ballads from her breakthrough 2012 debut Devotion. Tickets were sold through a lottery on her web site. Ware explained during the show that she wanted it to be fair for this small tour for everyone to have a chance to get tickets. On her Twitter earlier in the day she also expressed excitement to be back in the Bay even though her flight got delayed so much that she couldn’t make it to the Amoeba in-store that was originally scheduled prior to the show, but that didn’t stop her from giving a knockout performance regardless.
The show was a strong performance of the new album with many hits from her first album intertwined. She was wise to interject her older songs every couple of tracks, even though the new songs got a great response, it kept the audience engaged when an old hit was brought out. Regardless of whether the song was a new or old one Ware gave each one the utmost strength and concentration that she can offer. Her voice translates magnificently in the live setting, still as powerful as it is on the album while still reaching the heights that fill the room. There is no overt studio manipulation when it comes to Ware’s music, the voice is the star and the style falls somewhere between Florence Welch and the xx.
The backing band was strong too, matching the smallest flourishes from the album live and providing a solid dance groove to each song that showcased Ware’s vocals. Ware was smart to allow the more somber moments between lyrics to sit and breathe, not constantly belting a line or looking to the audience every second for a connection, holding a moment where the band simply plays and taking it in before the next movement. They are moments between what are already powerful songs that give her the grace a lot of R&B singers go for. The simple white backdrop was a great choice against Ware’s elegant all-black outfit as the backdrop would change colors multiple times due to the lights, most of the time bathed in cool blues and purples yet somehow still warm, matching the emotion of the song whether it was of loss or total elation with the love one feels.
The sold-out Chapel was filled with excited fans ready to sample the new material from the album. Opener “Running” got things started strongly, one of the more upbeat songs that got dancing and singing along going right away. Ware’s banter between songs proved that she’s still down to earth and can be just as crass as the next British band to come stateside. Multiple times throughout the set Ware interacted with the audience, expressing her appreciation for everyone being there and how it was important to begin this brief tour in the city of San Francisco as she’s loved her time in the city and mentioned her performances at the other venues in the city when she’s touched down here before.
Ware remarked how she actually wasn’t doing too well health-wise after her last performance in the city and had to be wheeled out to an ambulance when two fans on the street commented on her by saying “Yeah, that’s how you leave a Jessie Ware concert!” She also recognized one fan from a show in Orlando, Florida even though he was halfway through the crowd. “I see all of you!” she declared midway through the show. Ware’s audience interaction isn’t limited to just between-song banter. During particular songs Ware casually moves around the small stage and happily looks singing fans in the crowd and sings right along with them, pointing them out and obviously enthused that she has such passionate fans, most evident during the performance of her hit “110%” that she clearly loves the connection that she’s making with her fans.
Based on the performance and crowd reaction last night it’s clear that there are already some early favorites from the new album that fans already knew the words to. “King of … sometimes … maybe” being the early frontrunner, but the late-in-the-setlist performance of “Want Your Feeling” also felt like an already instant classic in her show. Immediately catchy and containing the same heartbreak that adorned Ware’s debut, the new songs naturally fit into her catalog and feel like they will be part of her set for years to come. A couple diehard fans showed their appreciation by giving her popcorn and flowers right before closer “Say You Love Me”. This intimate show at The Chapel was a showcase for what’s to come when a full proper U.S. tour gets announced, here’s hoping that she can maintain the intimacy of these smaller shows when she’s selling out the larger venues.