The cluster of bodies huddled around the corner of New York’s Bleeker and Thompson Streets could feel every cold lash of the wind as it whipped by Monday night (Oct. 30). Outside of Le Poisson Rouge, at least three sweeps of loners braving the night chill in thin sweaters scanned the line for extra tickets to the night’s sold out show. As people finally filed into the cozy West Village venue, the air inside smelling faintly of red wine and craft beer, it became clear how unlikely it was that those shivering hopefuls would get to experience Jessie Ware’s magic live.
Being home in a warm bed versus being tossed around a thrashing crowd at a popular music concert—hip-hop, alt-R&B, pop, whatever—seems like a sweeter option these days, but Ware’s show is more soothing than expected. A mental recharge of sorts. The London singer-songwriter’s penchant for love songs has shined through on all three of her studio albums, but her most recent LP projects a different sense of wholeness and satisfaction from Devotion and Tough Love. Now both a wife and a mother, Ware’s love is the kind that feels endless and one can literally see pour out of her onstage and fill up the room.
Her diverse fan base exuded that same sort of affable energy encapsulated within Glasshouse. Squeals of delight arose as soon as the band cued up the chords of “Thinking About You,” and Ware, clad in a puff-sleeved black jumpsuit and bejeweled black pumps, stepped onto the stage. With thunderous applause and “Yassss!” exclamations abound, the audience’s love was palpable.
While weaving through faves from her five-year catalogue (no one in the room was quiet for Devotion’s “Wildest Moments” and Tough Love’s “Kind Of…Sometimes…Maybe”), she treated the crowd to a night full of personal moments. She’d squat down at the stage’s edge to share intimate exchanges of gratitude with whoever caught her attention, even letting one fan dab runny makeup from beneath her eyes. “Where are Carlos and Jordan?” she asked, looking for them in the sea of people. When she found them, she dedicated her feathery cover of Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love” to them, a follow-up to a moment they shared as they camped out early for a show. A man gifted her a bouquet of flowers during “Champagne Kisses,” which she held on to until the very end of the song. In a “pinch me” moment, a young woman celebrating her birthday got to come on stage to sing a duet of “only [Ware’s] biggest single,” “Wildest Moments.”
The center of the show’s splendor, aside from her crystal clear vocals and excellent band-slash-backup singers, resided in her infectious sense of humor and casual energy. There was no shortage of joking and sailor-like swearing. Her wisecracking banter made her the perfect party host, eager to entertain every guest in attendance and make them feel like family. “I like your hair!” one male fan shouted. Her wavy blunt bob, indeed chic, capped off the sophistication of her ensemble. “Thank you! My husband hates it,” she said, poking fun at men’s fixation with long hair. “Whoever said that is obviously gay.” Factual in her assessment, the crowd howled with laughter.
Ware was totally transparent with her giggling crowd, even letting them know she may slip up on the super high notes of “Tough Love,” as well as exclaiming “Sh*t I can’t remember the words!” during “Kind Of…Sometimes…Maybe” and passing the mic to a front rower. She never held back her laughter, even when the crowd’s outrageous quips and compliments came during the middle of a stanza.
Surprisingly, not many people had their phones out, which felt like a supernatural phenomenon. No Snapchat, no obscured views. I felt guilty getting my own work footage, even though I’m actually a fan, tagging along from Devotion days. And it felt phenomenal.
For her final two ballads “Say You Love Me” and “Sam,” both the crux and end of the emotional experience, the select few brandishing their LED screens in the dark were asked to put them away. The songs were too heavy to just be assigned to your digital memory, allowing strangers to share an unforgettable energy that connected everyone in the room.
“Say You Love Me,” Tough Love’s heart-wrencher, prompted the most harmonious sing-along of all, while “Sam” returned the full moment to the woman with the microphone. The room fell silent for the Glasshouse closer, penned for and about Ware’s husband and then-unborn baby, to let her pour her heart out in the most (and only) serious and sincere moment of the night. The wave of emotions came swiftly, unfiltered. And as I filed out of the room, the weight of her closing performance still hanging in the room, I let the lone tear fall.
It was clear that being up on that stage was more than just Ware doing her job. There was a charm about her that didn’t fade. She commanded her audience with confidence eye contact that did not break, flirting with her onlookers by smiling with both her teeth and her eyes. She was genuinely happy to be standing in that room, sharing whatever joy she had with the couple hundred of fans who needed it most.
“Thinking About You”
“Keep Me Running”
“Want Your Feeling”
“No To Love”
“If You’re Never Gonna Move”
“What You Won’t Do For Love”
“Say You Love Me”