It took less than a full song for Jessie Ware to feel the crowd’s overpowering support at her San Francisco debut at the sold-out Rickshaw Stop last night.
A few fans began cheering during an instrumental break on opener “Devotion,” prompting a full-fledged eruption mid-song. The reaction overwhelmed Ware, who wasn’t quite sure how to respond to such strong support so soon into her set. “This is going to be a good night,” she beamed before diving into “Still Love Me” from her Mercury Award-nominated debut “Devotion,” set to be released domestically this April.
The night was a true embodiment of the give-and-take of performance, with Ware immediately feeding off the energy and the crowd. Throughout the night, she responded to every “I love you, Jessie!” and offered a humble thank you after every song. At times, the immense support seemed almost surreal to her.
Getting her start as a studio vocalist for UK electronic acts Joker and SBTRKT only two years ago, she now she had a crowd of devoted fans cheering every chance they had at a venue an ocean away from her London home.
Ware, who also makes her Coachella debut this year, commanded the stage for her hour-long set with focused eyes and a dynamic vocal delivery capable of belting out notes one moment and falling to a longing whisper the next. It didn’t get more intimate than her stripped-down version of Bobby Caldwell’s “What You Won’t Do For Love,” from the recently released EP If You’re Never Gonna Move. Accompanied by just her guitarist, she gave a fresh take on a soulful classic by keeping things simple.
San Francisco was the last stop on her tour and her performance soared as a result. Tracks like “Night Light” carried the same energy and tempo as on her debut, aided even more by the live setting. On “Wildest Moments,” her second to last song of the night, she attacked the track with the right mix of power and delicacy, a proper fit given the song’s anthemic backdrop and vulnerable lyrics. It provided a great contrast to last week’s performance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” her U.S. television debut, where her delivery felt a bit tentative.
The set’s highlight was closer “Running,” which carried the tightest groove of the night. Though she prefaced the song by admitting she doesn’t believe in encores, there was no doubt that the sold-out crowd would’ve gladly beckoned her back on stage if given the chance.
A few songs in, Ware teased that San Francisco had the energy to be her best stop on the tour, then quickly qualified her statement with a playful jab: Boston and New York had brought her flowers. Immediately after “Running” built to a rousing crescendo and unfortunate denouement, a bouquet magically made its way to the stage. Taken back, she finally declared her Bay Area stop the best she’d encountered in U.S..
This may just be the beginning of more glorious things to come.