Jessie Ware @ Barrowlands, Glasgow, 13 Nov
Jessie Ware brings the world of her latest two albums to life with her live show at Glasgow's Barrowland Ballroom
When Jessie Ware released What’s Your Pleasure? during the pandemic it represented an artistic gear-change for the singer. Her previous record Glasshouse had been a mid-table collection of ballads that led to Ware changing management and considering giving up music altogether (her very successful Table Manners podcast is a career in itself).
Moving into a disco/funk space has worked well for Ware, whose latest record – the Mercury-nominated That! Feels Good! – continues in this vein and provides a 1970s blueprint for the staging and costumes of its accompanying tour. Performing the first of a two-night stint at Barrowlands, the show is lightly conceptual. Ware performs under a neon sign which reads The Pearl, a nod to the infectious single Pearls, released earlier this year. “Welcome to my club The Pearl, everyone gets one free drink,” she says, before glancing at the bar staff at the back of the room and adding: “That was a lie.”
Flanked on either side by athletic male dancers playing obviously fake brass instruments, Ware introduces the band with names like The Pearlettes, Oyster and Daddy Pearl. (“Nile loves seafood,” she says at one point later in the show, “oops I mean Daddy Pearl.”)
The setlist is almost entirely made up of songs from the past two albums, a detail which goes down well with the surprisingly multi-generational crowd who very much came to dance. After opening with That! Feels Good!, Ware continues apace into Shake the Bottle, Ooh La La and Pearls. A high-octane start for a camp 90-minute set which rarely lets up. The only nod to her balladeering past comes halfway through, when Ware performs a tender rendition of Say You Love Me – a captivating reminder of her voice’s ability to capture vulnerability.
The moment of quiet is short-lived, as seconds later the dancers are back and Ware shimmies away behind an on-stage changing screen like a burlesque dancer, reemerging in a floor-length gold Halston-style dress (there are four costume changes over the course of the show) to perform the breathy Hot N Heavy. “Let’s give this crowd something to talk about,” Ware sings, something she certainly delivers.
Much of the show’s success is down to the quality of the music. These are quite simply great songs, which lean away from the kind of lift-and-shift nostalgic sampling that sometimes defines disco-inflected records. The campness of the show suits Ware’s witty and relatable personality down to the ground. For the encore, Ware pops up at the back of the room to perform a rendition of Cher’s Believe as she weaves her way through the dancing crowd to the stage, closing with the uplifting Free Yourself.
It's clear that Jessie Ware fully understands the world of her latest two records, and in them has found room to flourish and become the artist she always wanted to be.