thu 26/11/2020

Jessie J, Eventim Apollo | reviews, news & interviews

Jessie J, Eventim Apollo

Jessie J, Eventim Apollo

Magnificently garish live show is constantly on the edge of sensory overload

Self-belief in bra and pants

The echoes of last summer’s number one hit “Bang Bang” had hardly faded when Jessie J’s third album Sweet Talker was released to a largely positive reception last October. She’s been on the road on and off ever since, and though her act never seems short of either energy or self-belief, you might expect to see some signs of flagging after such a relentless display of girl power. Not a bit of it: her all-action show hit Hammersmith last night.

The echoes of last summer’s number one hit “Bang Bang” had hardly faded when Jessie J’s third album Sweet Talker was released to a largely positive reception last October. She’s been on the road on and off ever since, and though her act never seems short of either energy or self-belief, you might expect to see some signs of flagging after such a relentless display of girl power. Not a bit of it: her all-action show hit Hammersmith last night. Hammersmith is probably still feeling the aftershocks.

Her act teeters constantly on the edge of sensory overload. She began with a string of romantic songs, including “Seal Me With A Kiss”, “Personal”, and “Keep Us Together”, that enabled her to make the most of a sexually-charged stage routine, including much silhouetted backlighting to emphasise the sleek X-figure that features on the front of Sweet Talker. Like a burlesque show choreographed for a capacity crowd at Wembley, it lacked the intimacy to be really erotic, and all the clutching at her tiny T-shirt distracted from what she’s genuinely good at, which is singing.   

On the album Sweet Talker, Jessie J’s voice has been shone to a deep gloss sheen by some of the slickest producing names in pop. It’s nearly as good live, with an enviable blend of penetration and smoothness, but there’s so much else going on with the dancing, lighting and a rampaging rhythm section, that it doesn’t hold centre stage in quite the same way. The same is true of her dance routines, which often ended up with her jumping on the spot, overwhelmed by everything going on around her. A sense of all climax and no development pervades her act; more focus and dramatic shape would definitely help.

The lighting is part fireworks display, part police raid

Generically, her natural home is pop with a touch of R&B, though several songs include a short rap routine and even moments of reggae. Yet it makes no sense to talk when you have a singing voice like Jessie’s. In some ways the most effective songs were the calmer middle section of the gig, with a touching cover of Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” that gave her full vocal range space to breathe, and enabled her to stand still and sing for a few minutes. More, please. By the time we reached the pyrotechnically-themed final section of the gig, with “Laserlight” and “Burnin’ Up”, any chance of enjoying the uncluttered sound of her voice was gone. The hyperactivity continued to the end. Most artists would be content to go out with a bang; not to be outdone, Jessie finished with a “Bang Bang”.

As a show, it was magnificently and shamelessly garish. If you like subtlety of either music or stagecraft you simply shouldn’t come. The lighting is part fireworks display, part police raid. No nuances were left un-strobe-lit, no rhythm was left unsmashed on the bass drums. If you are, indeed, a sexy lady, it’s not generally considered necessary to emphasise the fact with flashing stadium floodlights, as happened during the chorus of that song, but Jessie’s not an artist to risk not hitting a message home with a piledriver.

Thanks to reality talent shows, celebrities’ artistic journeys are as commonplace as their fans’ trips on the 7.37 from Wolverhampton. But still, Jessie shared some of hers. She was, she said, born in Hammersmith, and that’s when she “started believing in herself”. You probably need to begin in the cradle if you’re to assemble a self-belief as gargantuan as Jessie’s. It would be fascinating to hear a Martian’s thoughts on what her show says about the state of contemporary womanhood. Her ambition and unselfconscious self-confidence are admirable, though the final goal still involves a lot of raunching in a bra and pants.

But for all that, she put a smile on thousands of faces last night. Several times the lights came up for Jessie to address her fans. These conversations with the audience were heartfelt, and the singer’s belief in her act seemed completely authentic. Brash, tacky, and with an ego that dwarfs the Apollo she might be, but Jessie J set out to entertain last night with a single-minded determination, and like everything she does, she gave it 110 per cent.

If you are, indeed, a sexy lady, it’s not generally considered necessary to emphasise the fact with flashing stadium floodlights

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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