April 2012. Nipping back home from the gym I heard the end of a dance track called 110% (now renamed ‘If you’re Never Gonna Move‘ due to legal reasons sampling Big Punisher) by Jessie Ware being played on Radio 1. Who is this girl? The song took me back to the 90s with a bit of a Baby D vibe.
The more I heard, the more I fell in love with Jessie’s voice. A white girl with the voice of a soul singer from the deep south, effortless 80s cool and sickly sweet vocals good enough to sooth any tortured soul.
When her album, Devotion, was available there was a clear theme. This girl loves 80s vintage beats, heavy base guitar (Dave Okumo) and experimental modern sampling with the likes of SBTKT and Disclosure featuring her. A track not on the album, Valentine, features Sampha – his and Jessie’s voices on one track sound amazing.
Arriving at the venue, Plan B, I was suprised at how intimate the setup was. As we walked in it was obvious that Jessie’s Mum was sitting next to us; the family resemblance was undeniable. As we made our way over to the bar we heard the group next to us talk about Jessie – as we heard more it was clear these were her school friends. Again, another couple on our other side started taking about the singer as a friend – it felt like we were at a private performance.
The evening started with Jessie coming on stage and singing Devotion. A rather abrupt start – it felt strange that she didnt greet the crowd, but I know this is a way artists can break those stage nerves – getting straight into a tune. After the song, Jessie thanked everyone for coming, convinced that all the tickets had been brough by her Mum’s bridge friends. She went on to congratulate a friend who had just had a baby – this really was a family affair. As she spoke more you could tell she was new meat on the music circuit. Nerves led her to waffle on, telling us how nervous was – actually just making the crowd warm to her even more.
The evening continued to roll at the same pace with Jessie’s voice not failing to impress every pair of eyes that was captivated by her presence. Her voice hit every note with perfection. It was a treat to be in such a small venue with such raw talent. She explained who songs were written for and what they were about, and you could see the emotion in her eyes when she sang each note.
At the end of her set she thanked everyone for coming and left the stage to catch up with her friends outside over a cigarette. Jessie was happy to have pictures taken with her and delightful to chat to. Clearly not tainted by fame… just yet.
After an hour and most of the ‘bridge friends’ had gone home a bouncer told everyone the after party was continuing downstairs. We managed to sneak in despite our names not being on the list and we continued to boogy the night away, literally with Jessie, on the dancefloor. The music downstairs was 80s style remixes of Jessie’s songs. We met Sampha downstairs who wasnt too impressed by the beats on offer. He didnt seem to fit in with the public school crowd that were partying with Jessie, inbetween frequent trips to the loo.
Slightly feeling like party crashers and getting a couple of strange looks from Jessie (!) we decided to call it a night. Always good to end on a high. Jessie Ware also left at the same time and we ended up following her with her boyfriend to the bus stop. Great to see a ‘girl next door’ living the dream. I just hope fame doesnt change her.