Scenes From Last Night's Jessie Ware Show at the South Side Music Hall.
Jessie Ware's Dallas debut deserved better.
The self-effacing pop star did her part, for sure, turning in a fabulous performance studded with killer material that never failed to showcase her equally splendid voice. Unfortunately, Dallas didn't hold up its end of the deal, failing to fill up even half of the South Side Music Hall last night at the singer's tour kickoff.
That an artist like Ware, whose debut Devotion LP was easily one of the best albums of 2012, couldn't sell enough tickets to keep the back half of this mid-size venue from needing to be curtained off — much less sell it out — is dumbfounding. It's not like her music is inaccessible; it's got big hooks, soaring choruses and tasteful yet eminently danceable instrumentation and electronics.
Still, whatever their reason, those who weren't there missed out. Ware boasts the complete package — something that was made abundantly clear to the lucky few who did trickle into the venue.
Following a typically energetic and generally well received opening turn from local emcee Sam Lao, Ware opened her set with a cover of Martika's “Love…Thy Will Be Done,” which, it must be said, might not have been the best choice. Last night's show was the initial stop on Wareâ€™s first extensive North American tour, and she obviously wanted to mix up her typical setlist. That in and of itself wasn't a bad idea, but the somewhat obscure cover — and that Ware's vocals were far too low in the mix for its positioning at the show's start — seemed to leave the audience a bit confused
It was a feeling that wouldn't last long, though. By Ware's second song, the mix was fixed and the singer had begun a heady trip through very nearly the whole of Devotion, highlighted by the phenomenal three-song mid-set sequence of “Devotion,” “Night Light” and “Swan Song.”
“Devotion,” in particular, is a fantastic pop song — a beguiling, slinky thing that's just the right mix of dark and sexy. “Night Light” and “Swan Song” are great songs too, but it doesn't really matter. Their lyrics could be absolute gibberish, and they'd still be an awesome listen for the stretching they give Ware's considerable vocal chops.
The rest of Wareâ€™s set was just as strong. The disco-flecked “Imagine It Was Us” (a 2013 single added to the American edition of Devotion) sounds a bit out of place on the album, but proved to be quite a lot of fun live. “Wildest Moments” and “Running,” stripped of much of their studio sheen, remained alluring, cementing Ware's status as one of the best artists around to listen to with lights turned down.
And Ware was just as impressive when she wasn't singing. Rather than being disappointed by the small crowd, she took the opportunity it gave her to connect with her — ahem — devoted fans. She never failed to get a laugh between songs and was uniformly charming and thoughtful throughout. From graciously accepting and displaying a bouquet of fan-provided birthday flowers to sharing a moment at the front of the stage with a woman grieving the loss of her sister, Ware was consistently and genuinely present. She was there, and, just like the crowd, wouldn't have rather been anywhere else.
From, nearly, top to bottom, Thursday night's show was a spectacular performance from a spectacular talent — one you shouldn't miss the next time she comes through town.
All photos by Mikel Galicia.