Recap: Jessie Ware @ Union Transfer

The coolest kids in Philadelphia made their way to Union Transfer this past Friday night to see Jessie Ware on her first headlining tour of America. Not to be gross, but it’s likely that the cool kids went home to make some cool kids of their own after a set of silky R&B grooves that, despite a few minor let downs, put you in the mood to grab a mate to shag until the sun began to peek from horizon.

If you had to take a guess based on her two music videos for insanely popular singles, “Running” and “Wildest Moment,” and the kind of confidence exuded in music that makes people wanna hit the sheets, one (me) might pin Ms. Ware down as a late-80s quiet storm diva. She has a wild digital and photographic presence that makes a three-minute video of her just sitting and singing into something that you cannot possibly turn away from. But in reality, she is just a smart girl that is living out her dream—and that earnest, kind sensibility carried into her short but strong set, for better and occasionally for worse.

Opening with super down-tempo track “Devotion,” Jessie set a great, sexy vibe for the night. Her voice is just as fabulous in person as it is on record, if not better. Her intonation is spot on, and her ability to control every single note is pure insanity. But in between each sexy, groovy song, Jessie told funny little stories about her first trips to America to perform, the thrill of performing after quitting her job, and the general joy and gratefulness she had about fulfilling a lifelong dream. In her posh accent, it was all quite sweet and uplifting, but in some ways I wish she had kept up that slightly icy, coy stage presence she has in her photos and videos.

That said, she can kill a song. “Sweet Talk” was a great example of the great things she can do with her voice, as was “No to Love.” She can hone in on those quiet moments of a song, where the vocals require extreme care and an easy touch, but within a moments notice, she can elevate he voice to mountainous heights. Her three-piece backing band also made these particular tracks come alive. Her drummer in particular should consider a career in sales—he made me rush home to buy tracks of hers that I had previously dismissed, including “No to Love.”

Part of me wonders what would happen if she had a larger backing band with some back up singers and more players to get her off the prerecorded sounds and vocals that were necessary to fill up the songs (clue to her American label: the place was packed, so she’ll sell out seats to offset the cost). It might give her more freedom to explore the performance side of herself so she could really own the stage. I also wonder what would happen if she was in a smaller, more intimate venue. But while I have all these question that are left unanswered, I am also left continually intrigued by a talent that is sure to become more forceful, confident, and unstoppable as the decade continues. — Darren White

Jessie Ware @ Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA – Friday, January 18, 2013
01 Devotion
02 Still Love Me
03 If You’re Never Gonna Move (110%)
04 Sweet Talk
05 Swan Song
06 Something Inside
07 Taking In Water
08 What You Won’t Do For Love
09 No To Love
10 Wildest Moments
11 Running

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