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Live Review: Jessie J (Nottingham Arena)

Photo: Capital Fm Arena

‘Jessie J is not perfect’ the headliner announced during ‘Nobody’s Perfect’. She can say that again. In a career spanning two albums, Jessica Cornish has gone from beloved and lauded newcomer to overbearing TV show judge. Personally, I have never quite understood where the gallons of hate are pouring from. The only issue I have with Jessie is that her unique, dramatic entrance into the . world of pop with the swagtastic ‘Do It Like A Dude’ has been eclipsed by her disappointing recent trip into predictability thanks to new single ‘Domino Part Two’/’It’s My Party’. The tunes are still there though – despite it’s awfully boring title, ‘Alive’ has a wealth of gems on it. So all eyes must turn to the woman herself – a serial talker-before-thinker, Jessie has rubbed a few people up the wrong way. Upon realising this, she retreated into media-trained oblivion and in recent interviews seems to have an opinion on…well, very little. Jessie J is not perfect – she couldn’t be if she tried.

‘Alive’ as a record, and a tour, finds her at a pivotal position in her career. With everything considered, witnessing her show tonight is the proof that she is more than capable of winning back the detractors with incredible radio-ready tunes that practically bleed with instant, catchy hooks. What can she possibly do to please those that just think she’s cocky and overrated, though? Well, she’s given that a good think and she’s going to change nothing. Like her or loathe her, the message of the ‘Alive’ tour is that Jessie is not going to
change. But she does give a lot more of her winning personality, which is a relief.

‘Big White Room’ may have struck a few people as a strange way to begin the energetic show, but after one verse and chorus, we’re straight on to next single ‘Thunder’ which, though incredible on record, is an unforgettable moment from the ‘Alive’ tour. One song that didn’t jump out quite as much on the record is given a showstopping makeover; ‘Breathe’, the closer of the first act is an immediate show highlight thanks to it’s smoke explosions and a more powerful instrumental behind the chorus. Jessie’s passionate performance and an even better gateway into that massive chorus really set the bar high for the rest of the show.

Yes, there were a few duds. ‘Daydreaming’ may be one of the best productions on ‘Alive’, but it doesn’t transfer as well onstage with the chorus not connecting anyway near as much as the studio edit had. ‘Excuse My Rude’ also coud have shifted aside to let more worthy tracks into the setlist. But holding it all together, even during the less incredible moments was Cornish herself. As I mentioned, her personality seems back on track – no more media trained boringness, she jokingly spoke about chatting to Big Brother contestants because she thought they were old friends and also took the time to give her ears a good old scrub. She is, despite the whole Voice debacle, a very likeable character and when she finds the link between being either overly outrageous or overly restrained, she is on to a winner.

Photo: Capital Fm Arena

‘Alive’ as an album is a little patchy, but tonight it really comes into it’s own. Alike ‘Breathe’, ‘It’s My Party’ is a bit of a non-event in Jessie’s career, but tonight it’s a huge, anthemic closer and ‘Alive’ misses out a lot of tricks on the record, but as the centrepiece of Jessie’s message, it transforms into a moment as euphoric as it’s lyrics. Every song gets the crowd enthused and dancing – each act is beautifully staged and coherent and even album tracks manage to keep the crowd on their feet – especially the divisive ‘Sexy Lady’. On top of all that, an impressive run through all of her singles (except ‘Who’s Laughing Now’. Sad face.) ensures even the casual attendees can join in the fun.

Jessie’s confidence may have landed her a few haters but it is exactly the reason she can command an arena-sized crowd. She never looks fearful or nervous – though she appears vulnerable during ‘Who You Are’ and stomps defiantly during ‘Conquer The World’. Her vocals need not be commented on – they were flawless. Her abilities to hit every note on the scale can quite easily grate on people’s nerves, but in her own show, it’s the perfect platform to hammer out the voice that has secured her massive success in her relatively short career so far.

As I attended gigs recently, I thought to myself that it’s very rare these days that an artist performs a bad show. Admittedly, yes there are a few disappointments – but in a room surrounded by your fans, performing music they love, you can hardly go wrong. But that is not to discredit Jessie; I’ve been to many many shows and been more than happy with what I got  – but with a few special touches in the production, a handful of feel-good video segues and the perfect platform to display the undeniable vocal talents of Cornish, the ‘Alive’ tour turned me from a casual fan into a total convert.  Not every show has the ability to do that.

Photo: Capital FM Arena
Words: Simon McMurdo

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