Cutty Cargo presents Jessie Ware, Ely's Yard | reviews, news & interviews
Cutty Cargo presents Jessie Ware, Ely's Yard
Cutty Cargo presents Jessie Ware, Ely's Yard
How did the chanteuse manage in a packing crate?
It was a bittersweet kind of evening. Walking down Brick Lane, it was striking how Caucasian, tanned and healthy most people we passed were, and we couldn't help wondering if the Bangladeshi locals were starting to get priced out of their own neighbourhood, while the artists and party-weirdos who ironically made the place such a tourist destination are fading away, sloping off to Dalston and Peckham to continue the gentrification process all over again.
On the way to one corporate-sponsored gig we passed another, even bigger one, just yards away, a whole building frontage done up apparently in the name of some MTV offshoot, house music of dubious quality booming out and bouncers in dicky-bows conspicuously turning people away. Our destination, thankfully, was just that bit more in keeping with Shoreditch's remaining artsy credentials. We're in the age of Red Bull Music Academy now, and brands are starting to realise that they can use a bit more discretion in what they choose to represent their product – so Cutty Sark whisky had gathered quite a selection of visual art, theatre, street food and music into a giant replica packing crate in a carpark (pictured right).
There was a burlesque hostess (pictured below) displaying plenty of thigh and chest (of course), there were video installations (of course) and the performance art aspect of the evening appeared to be about the impossibility of communication and emotional connection in the city (of course it was!). The crowd seemed to be split roughly half-and-half between people who'd applied for tickets because they were excited about the music, and liggers: knobheads with coiffed beards moaning because they had to queue for the FREE drinks and food, and 40- and 50-something advertising types with rather mobile jaws dancing inappropriately.
Jessie Ware, though, transformed the room in an instant. I'd never seen her live before, and didn't know what to expect, but by gosh the girl has presence. Given her music looks heavily back to the cooler aspects of the '80s, it's appropriate that she also has a radiates a kind of self-posessed femininity that has echoes of some of that decade's more interesting stars – Sade, Annie Lennox, Neneh Cherry, Alison Moyet – while still being all her own. She demonstrated extremely fine comedy timing while berating the audience for not dancing, yet was able to switch into deadly-serious musician mode in an instant.
Her small band were tidy as anything, and the perfect embodiment of what technology now enables. Though her three backing musicians were nominally guitarist, bassist and drummer, all of them had electronic instruments and samplers as well – as did Ware herself, which she used to trigger her own backing vocal samples too – so they were able to replicate the lavish soul and soft rock arrangements of her album entirely live without recourse to backing tapes.
There was an oddness – again bittersweet – to seeing songs with such scope and ambition peformed to barely 200 people, but Ware threw herself into it. From the beautiful “Night Light” which was built up to Fleetwood Mac-style stadium rock proportions through “Imagine it Was Us” which twists at the end into a disco/house stomper with Ware adding the synth bassline and singing the “People Get Up” samples from her regular collaborator Julio Bashmore's “Battle for Middle You”.
When she said how happy she was to be playing in London it seemed more a genuine expression of relief from a relentlessly touring musician than a cheesy line – though her finale of the never-not-great “Wildest Moments” and an intense “Running” was delivered with a fierceness that suggested no jadedness with the live stage just yet. It was a short set, with no new material, but all the songs sounded fresh and alive, clearly having evolved through that hard touring. As we left into the East London drizzle to watch rich kids sucking on nitrous balloons in the street and tourists gawping at celebrities being hustled into the MTV-or-whatever party, it was reassuring to have been reminded that brilliant songs and a characterful performer can still cut through the hustle and flash of a night out in such a trend-drowned area and create such magical moments.
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