The atmosphere inside Webster Hall on January 20 was buzzing. Interest in Aussie Conrad Sewell’s material was palpable, but it was clear the audience in attendance was waiting for the curly-haired siren Jess Glynne, who took over radio airwaves with the Clean Bandit collaboration “Rather Be” in the summer of 2014.
Much like the British group Years & Years, Jess Glynne’s music is a fusion of pop dance tracks and emotional ballads of empowerment. The show started with an intro of “Strawberry Fields,” and immediately gained momentum when Jess entered stage left and broke into “Ain’t Got Far to Go.” Hair slicked back into a high ponytail braid, eyeliner thickly embossed on her eyelids, a sleek sleeveless blazer on top of a black bra and pants, Jess was fierce, beguiling. The crowd was loud, hinged on every swing of her hips and sway of her braid. There was a pulse inside Webster Hall as people clamored to teeter a little closer into Jess’ field of vision.
The smartest decision of the night might have been for Jess to perform “Rather Be” and her other collaboration with Clean Bandit, “Real Love” early in the evening. “Rather Be,” her first chart-topping U.S. collaboration, was inescapable in the summer of 2014; however, the decision to play the track early allowed Jess to showcase her own independent voice, her own articulate songwriting. “Rather Be” was built for the UK Top 40 and Jess’ voice was able to catapult the song to long-term success. While Jess herself has not yet found large success on U.S. airwaves outside of this hit, she’s still poised for gold. “Rather Be” was pure fun; every concertgoer singing along at the top of their lungs.
We’re a thousand miles from comfort, we have traveled land and sea
But as long as you are with me, there’s no place I’d rather be…
Jess played “Home” followed by “Love Me.” “Rather Be” was a massive single that overtook the entire globe, but Jess’ own music feels far more personal. It’s meant simultaneously for a Friday night pre-game, and for a solemn Tuesday night. Jess manages to write and perform music that is both exuberant and remorseful. She’s a young woman experimenting, searching. There’s sorrow, regret, love. “Love Me” is Jess at her most straightforward, blunt. It’s specific, accusatory. Let’s have a party, the only guest is you / Don’t beat around the bush, we both want to… The entire audience tried on her bluntness for the night, asked for what they wanted. (Well, not me when it came to more space, but you get what I mean.) And I, I know that I’m not wrong / And you, yeah, you are gonna love me, love me… Personally, I long to feel the sense of self-assuredness that she embodied when strutting around the stage singing “Love Me.” Braid whipping around, her clothes utilitarian in nature, Jess wasn’t about making a fuss.
“Gave Me Something” was euphoric. Jess was truly in her element. The concert seemed to finally take shape. Her dance moves freer, her voice deeper. It seemed to me like she finally believed we were all there to see her “holding on to gold.” You gave me something that I didn’t have before / So I’ma give you something / To stop you saying more…
I was excited to hear Jess sing “Why Me,” the song I listen to regularly on the subway. It gets me excited for the day. It’s rummaging, exploring. Why me? / You left me all alone… The beat is in constant friction with the melancholic lyrics. You stole / My happiness from underneath my nose / My insecurities left on the floor… Jess it at her best when calling lovers out for their mistreatment of her, for asking for what she so rightly deserves. Her backup singers flanking her, Jess was reveling in the power of leading us all night.
Toward the end of the set, Glynne covered Amy Winehouse’s “Tears Dry on Their Own.” It was a bold move by a young English songstress to cover Amy, the most enigmatic and bright shining star of British music to come out in the last ten years (besides, naturally, Adele), but Jess did the song justice. Her voice was rough, raw. The entire audience frantically searched for their phones, myself included, as we sought to, for a few minutes, potentially recapture Amy’s words under the flash of the stage lights where they were meant to always be.
It felt appropriate that Jess followed her Amy Winehouse cover with the emotional linchpin on I Cry When I Laugh, the heart-wrenching ballad “Take Me Home.” The song is a bruise, exposed and tender. I listen to “Take Me Home,” late at night, underneath the covers, my toes cold, when I want to press down on the hurts of the day, the lingering doubts I don’t voice aloud. It was therapeutic to sing along with Jess, Will you hold me now? / Oh, will you take me home?
The tempo of the concert rose again with the follow up “You Can Find Me.” The conclusion of the concert was drawing near as she followed “No Rights No Wrongs” with the single “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself.” The latter of the two songs debuted this summer as I was searching for a new job. It was my anthem as I filled out application after application, as my insecurities festered when I left job interview after job interview. The wounds heal and tears dry and cracks they don’t show / So don’t be so hard on yourself, no… I missed feeling competent, confident. In my apartment after a long day of anxiety and stress, phone calls with recruiters and HR, I would blast this song. I waited patiently throughout most of the concert for Jess to finally reach her hand out, offer up her own experience to parse. I feel like I’ve been missing me / Was not who I’m supposed to be… All of us in the hall seemed lighter, dancing our cares away. ‘Cause I’m just tired of marching on my own… For one night, we weren’t. Flanked on all sides by sweaty bodies holding beer and liquor, we were all dancing to the same beat. Jess came back out to do an encore of “Right Here” and “Hold My Hand.” I left Webster Hall with my friend Gretchen on my left, Jess’ lyrics gripping me still.
I’m ready for this, there’s no denying
I’m ready for this…
Strawberry Fields (intro)
Ain’t Got Far to Go
Real Love / Finally / Rather Be
Gave Me Something
It Ain’t Right
Tears Dry on Their Own (Amy Winehouse cover)
Take Me Home
You Can Find Me
No Rights No Wrongs
Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself
Hold My Hand
Bonus: Jess just released a new music video you should all check out!