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Jessie Ware at Alexandra Palace: Disco diva triumphs in gorgeously camp homecoming

"Rarely has a room of 10,000 felt so warm and cosy," writes Cliff Joannou

By Cliff Joannou

Jessie Ware
Jessie Ware lights up London's famous Alexandra Palace with ease (Image: Carsten Windhurst)

As the lights go down, soft purple and scarlet hues light the stage as a neon sign above the drapes invites us into ‘The Pearl’, signalling the intimate aesthetic of Jessie Ware’s latest world.

Where fourth album What’s Your Pleasure? asked us to get lost in the beats of smokey nightclub, on her latest record, That! Feels Good!, Ware is ready to entertain. “Welcome to the Pearl,” a male voice declares, setting the scene as backing singers and performers are introduced. “…And Mother Pearl,” he announces Ware’s arrival to a cheer that rolls through Alexandra Palace.

Rarely has a room of 10,000 felt so warm and cosy, yet this is the energy Ware elicits in her fans. This is showcased at its fullest during ‘Beautiful People’ when she works the sea of bodies into a dance routine at her encouragement: “Stand up / Turn around / Take a bow / because you look so good right now / God gave you face / God gave you style / Wow wow wow,” – she sings as the crowd follows her command and swings along to the choreography of her new statement shimmy.

“I love you, and I love that you bought the merch. I feel like you’re on a hen do!” – Jessie Ware

This is the culmination of a sold-tour that has crossed the USA and UK, and culminated at the famous north London venue for two nights that will mark the artist’s biggest headlining tour yet. “This is massive, this is massive in terms of in capacity, but also for me,” Ware tells the fans, her flawlessly red-lipsticked smile radiating gratitude and joy on her face.

Never one to miss the opportunity to inject some cheek into the moment, she continues: “I love you, and I love that you bought the merch. I feel like you’re on a hen do and I’m on the T-shirt,” she winks. “But seriously, I appreciate the schlep that you did up that hill!” Beautiful as ol’ Ally Pally may be, it’s the least convenient of London’s venues. Her fans know that Ware will make the pilgrimage worthwhile.

Jessie Ware
Jessie Ware thrilled the crowd at Ally Pally (Image: Carsten Windhurst)

Making her way through the Mercury Prize nominated fifth album That! Feels Good! her voice dazzles as she glides through the sumptuous production and high notes of ‘Pearls’ before she opens her lungs for a mighty rendition of ‘Begin Again’. Ware isn’t holding back, showcasing those vocals to their fullest on ‘Say You Love Me’. Her voice soars, filling the hall and summoning the room to complete silence.

The singer-songwriter dives into her rich catalogue to serves choice cuts from past records: ‘Selfish Love’ from fourth album Glasshouse, the sensually charged ‘What’s Your Pleasure?’ and sublime ‘Adore You’ off her last record are served to fan appreciation.

“There’s plenty of camp added, all effortlessly blended with dance routines and vocal high points”

There’s plenty of camp added, all effortlessly blended with dance routines and vocal high points that deliver the most decadent show of Ware’s career, which five albums in, remains at once authentic and credible. She’s touching on the mainstream, too, with the hit Table Manners podcast and recent stint as a judge on reality show MAMMA MIA! I Have a Dream on ITV.

No doubt Ware will look back on this year as one that redefined her career. Having closed 2022 performing to 100,000 fans while supporting Harry Styles across five nights of his Love On Tour run just as single ‘Free Yourself’ gave Ware some of the biggest radio airplay of her career, she returned to conquer 2023 taking no prisoners.

As if we didn’t need reminding, it all underscores Jessie Ware as one of the UK’s most important – and commanding – voices in dance music.