JESSIE WARE at LARIMER LOUNGE | 11/12/13 Not five minutes into her performance at the Larimer Lounge last night, soul singer Jessie Ware slipped out of her album cut "No to Love" and seamlessly into "I Want You," by Marvin Gaye. It was a simple trick with a big payoff that I'm sure she's done time and again on her first North American tour, but for just a moment, everyone in this crowd was convinced that she was doing it for the very first time, and she was doing it just for us.
Ware, of course, is the 2012 Mercury Prize winner for Best Album. She is emblematic of the blooming European electro soul scene that also includes James Blake, Sampha (who has collaborated with Ware, and produced tracks on Drake's new album) and Dave Okumu, whose band the Invisible is supporting Ware on tour (more on that act in a minute).
The Larimer Lounge is one of those places that doesn't take much to fill up, and it feels made for nights like this. Acts that rightfully should be playing theaters but because of demographic limitations, they end up playing a smaller club space that fits only those in the know. By the time Ware was channeling the love man vibes of Marvin Gaye, the room was shoulder to shoulder with those in the know and every friend they could drag along.
Ware's set featured revved-up versions of songs from her album, Devotion, and songs that meander a bit on the record benefited from the bolder arrangements here. "Nightlight," a smooth jazz snoozer in it's original form, became a chugging, fuzzy trip-hop jam. "Devotion," meanwhile, the title track got a lift from the live percussion on top of the playback of the original track. Ware's vocals were true and stirring, even if they were lost in an audio mix that presented mostly keyboards.
Ware's star potential on stage last night was unmistakable. She was affable, charming and when it came to "business time," she proved just as sultry and hypnotizing as Sade, whom she cites as her biggest influence (it was nice to hear her mash up the hook from Sade's "The Moon and the Sky" with her own song "Running").
By the end of the set, the entire Larimer Lounge was fixated on her smallest stage turn or vocal run. Her encore consisted of a cover of Martika's "Love... Thy Will Be Done" and a preview of a new song called "True Believers."
Earlier in the night, the Invisible, who are signed to the legendary Ninja Tune imprint, got things started and came off sounding like TV on the Radio knocked up the xx and then gave the baby to Everything but the Girl to raise. Chilled, but in no way easy listening, arrangements were punctuated by math rock guitars, and all the contemplative stuff that people who love bands like this love.
Personal Bias: I should have known the show was going to be the bomb dot-com when they were bumpin' "You Are in My System," by the System, and "Lolli Lolli," by Wendy and Lisa, during set change. By the Way: What is it with young dudes and the Uncle Traveling Matt look? Random Detail: Jessie stopped mid show to pose for a picture that a fan requested. She then took pictures with just about every fan who wanted one after her set. Judging by her trajectory, this will probably never happen again.