A typical Monday night for those in their mid 20s and early 30s probably doesn’t consist of dancing, drinks, and a plethora of people donning club-ready attire, but for those who attended Jessie Ware’s first of two shows at the Hollywood Palladium earlier this week, it was the norm.
38-year-old English pop star Jessie Ware has been wowing her fans for over a decade: her debut album Devotion was released in 2012 and peaked at Number 5 on the UK Albums Chart. But her breakthrough with a new audience didn’t happen until 2020, when Ware first became inspired by disco music for her fourth album, What’s Your Pleasure? Which was released smack dab in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic (June 26, 2020, to be exact, after being pushed back on multiple occasions).
Though not as commercially impactful on radio compared to other pop albums of its time, like Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia or Lady Gaga’s Chromatica, What’s Your Pleasure? did in fact receive widespread critical acclaim from major publications like Rolling Stone and Pitchfork.
What’s Your Pleasure was described by Ware as a “two-year labour of love,” inspired by visions of “escapism and groove,” and paid homage to underground disco. This sound continued in Ware’s most recent release, 2023’s That! Feels! Good!, an album that is Ware’s highest charting on the American Top Album Sales Chart (peaking at Number 16).
That! Feels! Good! Was the star of the show on Monday night, with nine of the ten tracks being performed. Opening the evening with the title track off the album, Ware appeared onstage in a sparkly red one piece and a billowing red cape to match. The song, which features intricate instrumentals and glossy production, was displayed quite satisfyingly for a live performance: Ware’s band played a nearly perfect rendition of the track from start to finish, flashy dance moves included.
Following was a performance equally as theatrical with “Shake The Bottle,” an overtly sexual song that I cannot interpret as anything other than a step-by-step guide on how to satisfy a woman. Ware has stated in the past that the creation of her podcast Table Manners was a “turning point” in her career that helped her feel more comfortable in her own skin.
Sexuality has certaintly become a focal point in Ware’s music over the last few years, which is why I personally think she has built a strong fan base in young people, specifically those in the LGBTQIA+ community. This support was evident in the demographic of Ware’s show in Hollywood, making Ware a staple in this pop space in comparison to artists like Rina Sawyama, Robyn, and Carly Rae Jepsen.
Other highlights of Ware’s 90-minute set included a performance of “Begin Again,” “Remember Where You Are,” and “Say You Love Me,” a song that Ware noted to be incredibly important to her, and hopefully to others in the audience. “Say You Love Me” is Ware’s biggest song to date, rapidly approaching 20 million streams on Spotify and features co-writing credits from heavy hitters Benny Blanco and Ed Sheeran.
My personal favorite moments included an incredibly fun and contagious dance break during Ware’s 4th costume change of the evening (yes, I said four!) that put Ware’s dancers in the spotlight, eventually transitioning into one of Ware’s most “earworm-y” of earworm songs: “Freak Me Now.”
“Dance yourself silly! Be filthy! Be free!” Ware exclaimed.
Ware hit her peak with the performance of “Free Yourself,” arguably Ware’s best song and my personal favorite off That! Feels! Good!, the penultimate track of the evening and the one that showcased the beautiful sense of camaraderie you could feel in the air more than any other performance from the setlist.
As Ware’s self-confidence has boosted over her career, it’s evident that it impacted her music as well. The ability to be freely speaking about your sexuality, wanting pleasure, and enjoying the physical elements of a relationship are certainly popular topics in music, but it’s not always easy (or praised) for women to sing about them unapologetically, let alone women over 30-years-old and mothers (Ware has three children).
Ware’s North American tour continues through the end of October before heading overseas to Europe and Australia.
That! Feels! Good! is out now.