Somerset House, London, Wednesday, July 18
As Jessie Ware drifts onto Somerset House’s open-air courtyard stage in a voluminous black skirt, white shirt, gold jewellery and thick pomped hair she looks like Game Of Thrones’ Catelyn Stark at a board meeting. Fitting, because when she launches into the careering ‘Devotion’ her voice could wake the Westeros dragons. From there, a whomped-up ‘110%’ sounds flawless, as Jessie jerks her head to the beat while cradling the mic for the touching romance of the line: “I’m new to moving, and we can play hard“. At full-belt her voice is stunning, with a rich and bitter tinge, and though she’s often compared to Sade, her furrowed brow and horizontal hand-chops look more like Mary J Blige. Not that she quite has the confidence of Blige. Her apologetic, dimpled smile after the epic ‘Night Light’ suggests she doesn’t quite know how good she is, and the surprise drum fill in the Prince-tinged ‘No To Love’ it’s not so much ‘Little Red Corvette as ‘Jimmy Fallon House Band’. But on the impeccable ‘Running’ and ‘Wildest Moments’ – surely two of the year’s best songs – you’ll forgive the rookie inconsistencies. As the night draws in, her wavering voice gives a wrenching pathos to the material.
With just a little tightening of the slack, Jessie Ware will be the star her songs deserve.