Jessie Ware


This is first time I’ve ever stepped foot in Manchester Cathedral full stop, never mind stepping in whilst drinking cans of Red Stripe and watching a gig. For tonight we are all here to worship at the alter of Jessie Ware, the sultry London songstress who first bewitched us with her vocals for Joker and SBTRKT before launching herself as a full solo artist with 2012’s magnificent ‘Devotion’. Tonight she’s in Manchester for one of only two UK gigs before her new album Tough Love comes out in a week or so, and the crowd assembled in this magnificent venue are clearly fully Ware’d up disciples; the noise as she enters the stage is deafening as she launches into a thrilling, Disclosure-less version of ‘Running’.

It’s a clear sign of Ware’s confidence in her new material that she can toss one of her most popular, and best, songs off first, and she soon lets the gathered masses know that she’ll be playing her new album in it’s entirety as ‘a kind of live listen party before it’s released’, with a few older hits dotted throughout. And that’s exactly how the night develops, three new songs followed by a big old one to keep everyone’s attention. Not that we need it, as everyone is entirely enraptured by Ware, her great new tunes and her adorable stage presence. She stops frequently to talk to the crowd, even calling out one guy who follows her on Instagram and leaves loads of comments (slightly creepy?!), and bigging up the waiting staff from local eatery Australasia who are also here tonight. She tells us she’s ‘not a great Jew’ for being here tonight when she should be fasting, and she professes her absolute love for Manchester more than once, calling it her second home and declaring that ‘if I did a Kate Bush I’d do my 25 gigs right here’, which naturally drives the audience crazy. I have to admit, I’m a little bit in love with her by the time she says this.

But what of the new material? We’ve all heard ‘Tough Love’ and ‘Desire’, but of the others the best are a storming ‘’Keep On Lying’, a sexy, slinky RnB number that is still stuck in my head, and the Miguel co-penned ‘Kind Of…Sometimes…Maybe’ which is up there with some of the best songs she’s ever done. I think a couple of them sound like they have had their scuffed edges smoothed off compared to her first album material, but really they all fit in seamlessly with brilliant older songs like the skittering ‘110%’. On the wonderful ‘Sweet Talk’, Ware reminds us all how absolutely barnstorming her voice can be, it’s soaring tones cutting through the ancient stone walls of this building into the souls of everyone gathered. There’s a heartbreaking mega ballad called ‘Pieces’ which sounds like it could get an X Factor contestant through to boot camp, with a puzzled looking Louis Walsh not understanding how Adele hasn’t already released the song.

Ware finishes off with a one-two punch that could floor Adele any day. The opening strains of ‘Wildest Moments’ start up and the screams from the crowd ratchet up a notch as her biggest hit sounds as fresh as it did nearly three years ago. This is followed up by ‘Say You Love Me’, Ware’s most obvious X Factor-baiting song, a huge, emotional ballad that on record grows and grows up to it’s gospel choir backed conclusion, but in the absence of such a choir the crowd fill in singing ‘I don’t wanna fall in love’ as Ware hollers ‘No no no no no’ back at them. It’s a suitably rousing conclusion to the gig as Ware departs the stage, a huge beam on her face that shows how much this adoration means to her. As a mate said to me afterwards, she’s a proper pop star, and she really is…although she’s still cool enough to attract football’s first (and last?!) hipster Daniel Sturridge to her gig this evening, she is 100% ready for a leap into Adele-esque mega stardom. Good luck to her, on tonight’s evidence she’d be a massive breath of fresh air in the upper echelons of the charts.

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