Jessie Reyez’s show at London's O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire last Tuesday was most definitely a gig to remember. For the final stop of her ‘YESSIE’ world tour, the singer-songwriter sold out the iconic London venue and provided a night full of unforgettable entertainment — which wasn't just limited to her music.
The artist's sophomore album, carrying the same title as the tour and referencing the Canadian’s own first name, was released in September 2022. In an interview with Billboard given shortly before the album’s release, Reyez stated that the project was created with “an emphasis on self-discovering, self-healing”, so much so that she originally considered naming the album "Self". This nurturing intention is skillfully carried into the sonics of the contemporary R&B record, with CLASH Magazine describing it as an accumulation of songs "where the feelings sit close to the surface". And while the 31-year-old states that the conceptual ideas for her live shows only come after she has already produced the music, there is no doubt that the sentiment encapsulated on ‘YESSIE’ still translates organically, and beautifully, into performance.
At the O2 Empire, the simple yet powerful stage design of two open hands, in the centre of which Reyez was situated for the majority of the show, gave an almost hallowed atmosphere to the place. It perfectly accentuated the impressive vocals delivered during the performance, not only by the Grammy nominee herself, but also by her two talented opening acts, who were able to set an energetic atmosphere far before Jessie took to the stage.
When she did, her set list, a mixture of songs from all of Reyez’s projects — including multiple EPs, two albums, and many collaborations — was received as a definite success, and had the audience’s full attention and complete enthusiasm all the way through to the very end. It was clear that Jessie Reyez knew how to engage a crowd; she spoke to her fans in the front row in-between songs and encouraged everyone to sing along. When a fan began to scream the lyrics to one of her slow, sad songs at the top of their lungs, the artist even took a moment to appreciate it, supportively exclaiming, “this isn’t a concert, it’s a sing-along!”
Jessie Reyez’s vocal and lyrical maturity also attracted an audience demographic far beyond the average West Londoner who likes to enjoy a live show on a cold January night: one group of women had travelled all the way from Seattle to see her. “She is just so f**king cool,” one of them said, but not before jokingly offering us some of their mushrooms.
“So f**king cool” seems to unironically hit the nail on the head when describing Jessie. Two songs into the set, she had already accumulated at least ten bras, which people had thrown onstage (and which had landed on her mic stand). However, as cool as she is at times (especially when parading a collection of ladies' undergarments around the stage), her honesty — in not only her lyrics, but also her simple comments to the crowd — show a vulnerability that allows her fans to connect with her on a much more profound level, allowing her to bring together an impressively diverse crowd to form a wonderful display of love and unity.
And while Jessie was nominated for a Grammy for Best Urban Contemporary Album in 2020, has over 20 million monthly listeners on Spotify and has collaborated with the likes of Eminem, Lewis Capaldi, Sam Smith and Calvin Harris, her name still somehow hasn't reached household status. Nevertheless, she embraces the character of an underground artist who just so happens to be incredibly successful, but in a low-key, effortlessly cool kind of way. All told, with a talent like hers, and fans who look up to her as the embodiment of coolness and wisdom, Jessie Reyez’s future looks as bright as the lights that illuminated her as she stood onstage, in the palms of those oversized hands, at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire.
Edited by Talia Andrea, Music Editor