Jessie Ware

For her first ever concert in Los Angeles, U.K.-based songstress delivered a sharp, precise sampling of material from her acclaimed debut album "Devotion."

Performers: Jessie Ware, Joe Newman, Rocco Palladino, Dornik Leigh.

For her first ever concert in Los Angeles, U.K.-based songstress Jessie Ware delivered a sharp, precise sampling of material from her acclaimed debut album “Devotion.” With ticket demand necessitating a last-minute venue upgrade from the Bootleg Bar to the adjacent, 450-capacity Bootleg Theater, Ware and her three-piece backing band enjoyed a surprisingly fervent response from the typically cool Echo Park audience. Oftentimes tastemaking showcases like Ware’s are dulled by a deluge of bored music industry acolytes, but Thursday evening’s performance was refreshingly filled with earnest fans who cheered and sang along to nearly every track.

Over the past few months, Ware’s cultural cachet has skyrocketed in the U.S. due to a healthy amount of praise from bloggers and a nomination for Britain’s Mercury Prize. Signed to Interscope imprint Cherrytree Records in the U.S., Ware is part of a current crop of major-label-signed artists — such as Frank Ocean and James Blake — who’ve built credibility with niche releases and then catapulted to fame with refined proper debuts. This can be a slow approach to starmaking, however, and Ware’s album still hasn’t been officially released in the U.S.

With little fuss or fanfare, Ware and her band took the stage in front of a large black banner with her name printed in white block lettering. Her image is carefully-crafted yet restrained – hair wrapped in a thick bun, golden hoop earrings, a lace shirt and an undersized black jacket – and her banter was humorous, lighthearted and a bit self-deprecating, which contrasted nicely with the downbeat, romantic nature of her music. Opening with “Devotion,” the band exhibited a restrained, minimal sound that left ample room for Ware’s startlingly powerful voice.

Throughout the evening, Ware exhibited a wonderful amount of vocal control, judiciously saving the thunderous heights of her range for key melodic moments. The jaunty, pulsating “Sweet Talk” was a crowd favorite, blending smooth swaths of electric piano with her tantalizingly restrained vocal. Her sound draws heavily from many of the ’80s easy-listening mainstays — particularly Sade — but it’s been updated with just enough modern R&B and electro influences to remain vital and compelling.

Breakthrough single “Wildest Moments” delivered a guttural, wholly emotional contrast to most of the evening’s slick, tight-lipped fare. The thudding drum beat and rapturous hook were delivered with inspired force, giving the crowd its only clear moment of unbridled, passionate expression. It was perfectly chosen as the penultimate track, allowing Ware to finish with the brooding, faster-paced “Running.”

The entire concert clocked in at under an hour and clearly left the audience excited and eager for more material. Those in attendance witnessed the pleasantly low-key debut of a wonderfully talented performer with enormous artistic potential. Ware will return to Los Angeles on Jan. 23 for a performance at the larger El Rey Theater.

Jessie Ware

Bootleg Theater; 450 capacity; $15 top

Production: Presented by The Fold. Reviewed December 13, 2012.

Cast: Performers: Jessie Ware, Joe Newman, Rocco Palladino, Dornik Leigh.

More Music

  • BTS Map of the Soul 7

    BTS’ ‘Map of the Soul: 7’: Album Review

    As the first South Korean band to attain superstar status in the United States, BTS have done an remarkable job of maintaining it. Each album has topped its predecessor, and the group’s fourth full studio outing, “Map of the Soul: 7,” looks to be no exception, with all 20 of its titles landed in the [...]

  • A-ha!

    'A-ha: The Movie' on 'Take on Me' Band to Receive Worldwide Release (EXCLUSIVE)

    A feature documentary on Norwegian “Take On Me” singers A-ha will receive a worldwide release this November. “A-ha: The Movie,” distributed internationally by Esther van Messel’s First Hand Films, will be broadcast in theaters around the world on Nov. 26, with Germany’s Salzgeber releasing the film locally and First Hand Films handling the release in [...]

  • Rihanna

    Rihanna Pleads for Equality at NAACP Image Awards: 'Tell Your Friends to Pull Up'

    Rihanna was the recipient of the NAACP President’s Award. The honor is bestowed on an entertainer whose commitment to philanthropy is unparalleled. Rihanna, whose chosen charities include the Clara Lionel Foundation, Raising Malawi and UNICEF and was honored as Harvard’s Humanitarian of the Year in 2017, was in attendance for the NAACP Image Awards show, [...]

  • Lizzo51st Annual NAACP Image Awards, Arrivals,

    NAACP Winners 2020: The Complete List

    Lizzo was named Entertainer of the Year at the 51st NAACP Image Awards on Saturday. The singer-rapper edged out Angela Bassett, Billy Porter, Regina King and Tyler Perry for the night’s top prize. Warner Bros.’ legal drama “Just Mercy,” meanwhile, nearly swept the top film awards, taking home best motion picture, ensemble, best actor (Michael [...]

  • Yung Gravy

    Rapper Yung Gravy Brings 'Minnesota Nice' to Twin Cities: Concert Review

    There has always been a place for humor in rap, with a lineage reaching back to the Beastie Boys’ debut album or 2 Live Crew’s raunchy records in the eighties. The caveat for “funny” rap being that if you go the humorous route, you need to have your bars land right, and to do so [...]

  • BTS

    BTS Opens Up About the Past, Creativity and Inspiration for 'Map of the Soul: 7' (Watch)

    With a reported four million copies in worldwide pre-orders and their stars shining brighter than ever thanks to chart-topping albums and playing the world’s biggest stages, BTS’ just-released “Map of the Soul: 7” was sure to be a success no matter what it sounded like. But instead of resting on starpower, the record-breaking group decided [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content