Tobias Jesso Jr

Tobias Jesso Jr.


For the second time in a week I’m in a packed Night and Day Café and it’s a real joy to see it thriving again. Even prior to the turbulent spell which saw residential noise complaints almost close it for good, the Oldham Street venue had been something of a ghost town – looking and feeling dated in comparison to The Deaf Institute and Ruby Lounge. The wayward ship has been steered back in the right direction with an improved bar selection, new artwork and most importantly, quality bookings.

Headline act tonight is Tobias Jesso Jr (not to be confused with Morrissey guitarist Jesse Tobias), who is in the UK to promote his touching, break-up inspired debut album Goon. The Vancouver born songwriter is no stranger to celebrity pluggers; appearing on this week’s Jools Holland and having had Adele tweet about his songs.

Timing is everything in music and Jesso has come along at a time when artful singer-songwriter balladry is thriving like no time since the seventies. Yet to pierce popular radio in the way AM Pop managed, the likes of Father John Misty, Matthew E White and Natalie Prass are spearheading a return to the genre’s halcyon days.

Taking to the stage alone, a huge 6’7 frame towers over the piano, imposing even when atop the stool. A tender ‘Bad Words’ is the first of many simple but beautiful piano-led numbers chiming beneath his soft melancholic voice. Maybe it’s being hemmed in jockeying for a good view or the predictable amount of couples around but there is an undeniable cosiness in the songs. Like a shared bag of chips, there is a warm familiarity on show.

Much is made about a lack of respect during gigs these days but the crowd tonight are, by and large, resolutely quiet. The clattering of glass at the bar and smattering of murmurs around the room give vibrancy, like a Mancunian Sine-e. With so many songs dedicated to relationships, the lyrical themes can sometimes end up a little cloying; during ‘Can We Still Be Friends’ the aimless rhyming of night, fight and light is, well…shite. The array of gorgeous melodies on show is, however, ample compensation.

Wrapping up with ‘How Could You Babe’ comes with the invitation of a singalong. It’s probably for the better that the majority of the crowd decline as Jesso’s voice is now a howl, piercing through the room. Hopefully a sign that future records could see him push his vocal range further.

The show is only 45 minutes but that is more than enough to please the punters and offer a glimpse of one of the most promising musicians around.

Tobias returns in November to The Ritz to play with a full band. On the evidence of tonight, it’s not one you’ll want to miss.

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Joseph Curran

Features Editor and gig reviewer