Jessie Reyez

Manchester Academy 2 // Sunday 29th January 2023

“I owe this life to you guys” – emotional and interactive performance by Jessie Reyez
It was a Sunday night at Manchester Academy 2, but fans sacrificed their extra hour of sleep
before their Monday morning shift to catch the rare Canadian R&B artist Jessie Reyez at her
sold out show – with some giving up more rest than others as two fans camped overnight
for front row spots!

Coming to the end of her world tour for her sophomore album YESSIE, which tackles themes
of heartbreak, confidence and self-worth, the singer-songwriter has only scheduled three
UK dates, so I felt very lucky to be there enjoying her unvarnished voice and soulful music.
Yet to play her own headline show in Manchester, Reyez was surprised by the city’s lively
crowd as they started chants of ‘Jessie, Jessie, Jessie’ before she even stepped foot on stage.
But little did the audience know they would be met by the same energy as she shouted
down the microphone “I am far away from home and this venue could have been empty but
its not. I owe my life to you guys.”

Jessie Reyez did just that. Despite working with some of the biggest names in the music industry from Lewis Capaldi to Beyoncé, it is clear she is not too big for her fanbase as she
accepted two bouquets of flowers from one fan, a card and matching necklace from another, and did an impromptu song request of WORTH SAVING a cappella style from a cardboard sign (which, by the way, confirmed the raw beauty of her vocals without instrumentals).

Her interactive nature and bubbly personality could be as a result of not being able to tour
her debut album, BEFORE LOVE CAME TO KILL US, properly, with it being released in the first
few weeks of the pandemic. But whatever the reason, it was refreshing to see an artist care
so dearly about their audience.

The Toronto singer is not only unique due to her stage presence, but also as she is the first
live performer I have seen to only execute half of a song before seamlessly transitioning into
another track. It worked and I suppose it is a great way to cover as much of her collective
discography as possible.

Jessie did this from the beginning with her first song MOOD, opening with the hip-hop track’s machine-gun flow over soothing beatscape, then cutting into 2017 fan-favourite Shutter Island right before the beat gets more layered.

Not only treating fans verbally, but also throughout the setlist choices as she played
numerous material from 2017 when she first started releasing music “Thank you to
everyone who played my music in car journeys where nobody knew my name.”
However, her new album YESSIE went down equally as well, with a lot of clearly
heartbroken fans screaming back every lyric to the point where it was almost a struggle to
hear Jessie – as encouraged by Reyez herself “If you wanna sing your lungs out and be
yourself then be your fucking self.”

Her newest effort explores many genres such as hip-hop, soul and R&B, with this being
increasingly prominent in the live sound as the production was of even higher standard than
on her studio recordings. Particularly with rock elements coming to the forefront as heard in
the heavy drums and gut-rippling basslines.

A master of brutally honest lyrics over soft soul beats, the profoundly assertive QUEEN ST.W laid into her cheating ex boyfriend “I don’t give a fuck if your momma says, she don’t like me now” and the string plucked Billie Eilish-esque single MUTUAL FRIEND “If you died tomorrow // I don’t think I’d cry was partnered with next level melodies.

Rocking a neon sports-bra, low waisted trousers and a slick back pony, she is not only an
insanely talented musician but a natural-born performer and radiated hypnotic confidence,
yet simultaneously reflective coldness (in a cool I-don’t-give-a-toss kind of way).
The angrily delivered Gatekeeper was met with goosebumps, banging drums and red
lighting, exploring misogyny in the music industry “I’m the gatekeeper // Spread your legs,
open up // You could be famous” and pays homage to her personal experience working with
producer Noel Fisher who was accused of sexually assaulting two singers. And shout out to
‘Nathan from Wales’, one of handful of fans spoken to by Jessie that night, who was singled
out as he knew every lyric to the feminist number.

When she was not picking up thrown bras from the stage and circling them above her head,
which seems to be common practise at her gigs, she was jumping and head-banging around
the stage getting the room’s energy up.

Stand out tracks were the exceptionally funky bassline of ONLY ONE, with the venue turning into a sea of waving arms, and the Latino track Sola, after asking the crowd if they could get intimate, and stunning stage lighting of yellow, blue and red replicating that of her parent’s Colombian home flag.

Jessie’s one of a kind raspy voice was extenuated in her classic Apple Juice, and her talent in
whizzing across multiple genres was outstanding in STILL C U which was slightly more
experimental with a higher-vocal range and tight-flow.

Creatively, a full circle moment rounded off the night with the more upbeat second half of
MOOD, just after the audience participated in positive affirmations and a meditation session
consisting of deep breathing but also bellowing as loud as humanly possible and letting out
all the inner demons.

The venue erupted for a final time as the thumping beats of One Kiss burst from the
speakers, with Reyez running back on stage questioning ‘Why is Jessie Reyez doing this Dua
Lipa and Calvin Harris song … you didn’t know I wrote this fucking song?’. Making the crowd
slowly crouch down and spring back up again, the Academy bounced up and down.
Ending with her most popular hit, Figures, which was met by a room full of phone torch
lights at Jessie’s request, she opened up about depression with her acoustic guitar at the

A raw and down-to-earth performance, it was a good warm up for her upcoming world tour with Sam Smith where she will hopefully pick up thousands of new fans that she whole heartedly deserves.

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