BOWEN TIBBETTS / THE EAGLE
From the moment she stepped onto the stage “dressed like Michelle Obama,” to the last note of the night she left echoing in the air, Jessie Ware commanded and astounded the near-capacity 9:30 club on Jan. 15.
Ware began her quiet-storm and pop influenced set with “Devotion,” the title track from her debut album. Any questions about this mysterious, yet charming Brit were gone by the time she finished her second song “Still Love Me.”
What followed was her rocking “Night Light,” a song Ware said she knew Americans would like. Performing her album in its entirety, plus two covers, Ware churned out a tightly polished set that warmed up the chilly, January night with everyone in the tightly packed venue dancing along.
When she wasn’t belting her heart out during every song, Ware paused between numbers and adopted an entirely different demeanor. She danced with the crowd, told stories about meeting fans before the show and made jokes about her lack of “pop star qualities.” She was like Adele during the song, leaving no question about her talent, and like Chris Martin when not singing: self-depreciating and genuinely thrilled to be where she was.
Several times during the evening, Ware made comments about how the 9:30 club was the biggest venue of her North American tour, which included dates in New York City, Philadelphia and an appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.”
One of the highlights of the show was when Ware preceded her powerful “Taking in Water” by telling a story about her little brother, for whom she wrote the song. A few songs later, Ware brought the house down with “Wildest Moments.” Her most successful single to date accordingly inspired the biggest sing-along of the night.
After she announced she had one song left, the audience protested and Ware gave in, adding a cover of Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love” to the set.
The closing number, “Running,” was a fitting end to the evening, with everyone in the venue fully immersed in the swirling synths, echoing guitars and Ware’s unbelievable voice.
Given her poise and stage presence, it is astonishing that she is on her first North American tour in support of her debut album. The concert could have continued for another hour and a half without Ware losing any steam or the crowd losing any enthusiasm for the music.
With the crowd begging for more Ware laughed, “This really is the last song! We’ve played the album in its entirety.” She mused aloud that she wished she could come back to D.C. next week, something everyone in attendance would certainly wish for as well.