On Monday night, the silhouette of Jessie Ware’s blazer as she emerged onstage at the Sinclair was the first clue that we’d be doing some low impact time-traveling.
In smart contrast with the London singer’s suddenly signature yanked-back black hair, the thing was ample and droopy, but it was also a perfect fit — like she’d just wandered in through the stage doors from a cool evening in 1993.
Monday was the first date on Ware’s first proper US tour, and suffice it to say, it went very well. Among the sold-out crowd, it felt more like an “at last” moment than a kicking of tires. Ware’s unique allure has built over the past two years with a string of singles and remix work with sharp British producers like Sampha, Disclosure, and Julio Bashmore, and last year’s widely lauded debut, “Devotion.” Monday night’s crowd was there to hear her, not to field-test her, and she seemed relieved — more so when roses were thrust into her hands from the front row.
Delivered by a three-piece band, Ware’s sumptuous slo-mo soul maintained a slight dancefloor tug, which isn’t to say anyone danced. To be fair, Ware is the kind of singer you watch intently: her voice is elastic, fading from bright belts to sullen whispers, always returning to that sweet, forgotten blue tone — the kind you get when you’ve been around the world but can’t find your baby.
A rousing cover of Brownstone’s 1994 “If You Love Me” was lovely but for some sampler fumbles, and Ware reprised her and Sampha’s take on “What You Won’t Do for Love” to big applause. While songs like “Taking in Water” and “Swan Song” certainly gained charisma live that their recordings lack, it was fast favorites like the slick “Running” and “Devotion” single, “Wildest Moments,” that showcased Ware’s promise best. And her fans weren’t the only ones feeling it; all night, she rounded out her ensemble with an appropriately oversize smile.
Toronto vocalist Rochelle Jordan opened the show with a mighty presence — a cloud of black hair dwarfing her tiny circular shades, her nimble voice leaping into impressive runs that too often got lost in songs that were too diffuse.