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Proudly proclaimed as London’s “famous” Jazz Cafe, the intimate setting provides the perfect backdrop for a self-confessed hungover Jessie Ware, who the evening before was celebrating her nomination as Best British Female at the coveted BRIT Awards. 24 hours later, this evening is presented by Annie Mac, who takes to the small stage among the plethora of instruments to announce each of the performing acts, from the exciting upstarts Weslee, through New York experimental rockers Sunflower Bean, and tonight’s headliner.
Weslee take to the stage in-front of an already excitable crowd, announcing two songs in that this is their first ever live show. It doesn’t show, as vocalist Emma (you’d be hard pushed to find her surname online) delivers a blend of R&B and soul with an electric bite. There’s electronic experimentation embedded in their sound, but it’s the sultry melodies on the likes of recent single Tongue Tied and the super-sexy Bathwater that define this collective early on. Joined on stage by the equally mysterious producer Josh, their live performance is only set to turn more heads, having already attracted the likes of Mistajam, Hew Stephens, and of course Annie Mac herself.
New York based rock-meets-pop Sunflower Bean turn up the reverb for their tantalising blend of everything cool. Bringing retrospective elements of grunge, punk, rock and ethereal melodies to the table, the unclassifiable trio teem with a seriously sleek nonchalance. Front-person Julia Cumming commands the small stage with little effort, revealing their brand new single Twentytwo. When Cumming reappears during Jessie Ware’s set for an impromptu cover of Neil Young’s Harvest Moon, she showcases her true vocal chops. Combined with the full backing of her atypical rock band, Sunflower Bean easily transport a bit of New York swag to England’s capital.
Despite her post-BRITs hangover, Jessie Ware immediately lives up to Annie Mac’s notable introduction. Mac, declaring Ware a British institution, commends her voice as one of the best in the world. As Ware breaks into opener Thinking About You nobody would disagree. It marks the start of a beautifully casual performance. Ware interacts with her audience, making jokes as she sips on her hair-of-the-dog ready whiskey. During a bout of technical difficulties she looks far from concerned, filling the possible void with her abundant charm.
It’s a perfect accompaniment to the special surroundings, as Ware declares early on that she’s absolutely loving her evening. Her set moves from the stripped back Sam to the minimalist Selfish Love, and from the comparably upbeat Midnight to the sublime Say You Love Me. She glides from her between-song banter to the vocal beauty of each, as the audience remain perfectly fixated on the stage.
Wildest Moments rounds off a wonderful evening at London’s Jazz Cafe. “We could be the greatest,” Ware repeatedly sings in the chorus. Tonight, she certainly is.
Jessie Ware returns to the stage for a full UK tour in March 2018. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.co.uk.