Jessie Ware live in London: a ray of light in an increasingly gloomy world

Alexandra Palace, November 17: the star's live show is joyous, OTT and carefully thought-out at the same time – it's a genuine triumph

2023 has been a transformative year for Jessie Ware. The London singer’s fifth album, April’s ‘That! Feels Good!’ saw an already successful singer soar into an exclusive realm: “mother” status.

Ware has experienced a boost in the size of her distinctly, vocally queer fanbase, who embrace her for the powerful femininity she exudes; her songs position her as a high priestess of self-love and carnal pleasure, framed by gorgeous melismas that cascade like party poppers. She has aligned herself directly with the LGBTQ+ community, showing her allyship in subtle ways (attending London marches in support of trans people) and the not-so-subtle (dishing out slyly funny critique as a guest judge on season two of RuPaul’s Drag Race UK).

There’s a sincere understanding from Ware that speaking directly to this portion of her audience can create loyal, lifelong fans; in return, they have helped her step into her power. At the first of two sold-out hometown gigs at Alexandra Palace, 10,000 people go nuts at whatever she does on stage – particularly when she brandishes a whip as a mic stand throughout a scintillating ‘What’s Your Pleasure?’. The sheer force of the crowd’s devotion is palpable: they whoop and snap their fingers in awe of the Vegas-level glitz. All of this takes on extra significance when Ware announces that, over a decade into career, she is performing her biggest headline show to date.

Jessie Ware
Credit: Carsten Windhurst


But don’t call it a comeback. Speaking to NME earlier this year, Ware made it clear that her journey to becoming a deliciously confident performer isn’t a reinvention, but a total embrace of the club scenes she became immersed in as a young adult. In 2012, she became the first-ever vocalist that Boiler Room platformed, while a chapter of her recent memoir Omelette is dedicated to Brixton’s nightlife. Tonight (November 17), in between ‘Hot N Heavy’ and ‘Freak Me Now’, she and her backing dancers also pay tribute to ballroom culture and its ‘house’ system – which was originated by queer Black and Latino communities in 1960s New York – with a voguing interlude, also a hallmark of Beyoncé’s recent ‘Renaissance’ tour.

These moments are no doubt intended to make us feel as if we’re part of a journey. Ware maintains a permanent grin all night. ‘Lightning’, a skippable track from ‘That! Feels Good!’, becomes an unexpected highlight as two supersized mirrorballs refract against each other, leaving the venue bathed in freckles of white light. ‘Beautiful People’ – complete with leather boots and calls for audience participation via easy-to-follow choreography – is delivered with an eyebrow raised knowingly at the ludicrousness of it all.

jessie ware
Credit: Carsten Windhurst

However over the top things may get, Ware keeps the attention on the music. She includes early hits (‘Say You Love Me’, ‘Selfish Love’) and revels in an extended mix of ‘Spotlight’, a sparkling career highlight. Before launching into the latter, she offers a conclusion filled with promise and ambition: “I’m five albums in, and I feel like I’ve got so much more to do.” It’s clear that this show represents a time of reckoning not just for Ware herself, but for anyone who views her as a ray of light in an increasingly gloomy world.

Jessie Ware played:

‘That! Feels Good!’
‘Shake The Bottle’
‘Ooh La La’
‘Selfish Love’
‘Begin Again’
‘Hello Love’
‘Remember Where You Are’
‘Say You Love Me’
‘Hot N Heavy’
‘Freak Me Now’
‘Overtime / Adore You’
‘Mirage (Don’t Stop)’
‘What’s Your Pleasure?’
‘Save A Kiss’
‘Beautiful People’
‘Believe’ (Cher cover)
‘Free Yourself’


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