In a pop-music landscape of artists trying to outdo each other with onstage antics that border on the insane, the straight-up belter with a down-to-earth story is suddenly a refreshing change of pace.
Jessie J’s recent concert at Smart Araneta Coliseum proved she was a great example of the latter, giving an energetic performance without resorting to fancy visuals or gimmicks.
Despite her claims of feeling ill that night, the British singer-songwriter enthralled her crowd with a greatest hits-like set list featuring “Domino,” “Nobody’s Perfect” and “Do It Like a Dude,” among nine other songs.
Her backup vocalists were more than competent, sometimes momentarily taking the lead.
The band was somewhat less impressive, with no standout solos or particularly strong moments, but perfectly serviceable for the tour.
More than just her pipes, though, it was Jessie J’s interaction with the audience that made this concert special.
On several occasions she picked up fans’ mobile phones and took video selfies while singing; other times she wore caps given to her, and even threw a sheer pink skirt that she wore for the opening segments of the concert, sending front-row fans into a tug-of-war frenzy that was eventually resolved by a bodyguard by the fence.
It’s just a shame that the audience was quite small—while the lower-box and patron seats were filled to the brim, the upper-box section had a lot of open spaces.
But everyone was in high spirits.
Perhaps due to her illness, though, her lively vocals and enthusiasm in reaching out to her audience weren’t quite matched by her stage movements. It was a common pattern—a song would start, the music would crescendo as she moved ever more furiously to it, reeling the audience in and hyping them up.
Things would get a little boring when she proceeded to amble around the stage with an exaggerated, hip-swaying diva walk. But her air-guitar stunts made up for it.
It wasn’t all fun and games, though. Jessie J took the time to speak from the heart, talking about how her performer and celebrity lifestyle, while pleasant and entertaining, were not what she enjoyed in life 24/7.
Some of her songs transformed into personal allegories for her struggles. “Who You Are” became an empowering anthem that mirrored a piece of advice she gave the audience early on: “Stop trying to be everyone else’s idea of perfect.”
At one point, she received a stuffed toy from a fan, Joshua, with an enclosed letter. In it, Joshua wrote of his own struggles—being bullied by peers for his awkwardness, and how her music helped him and served as his inspiration.
Jessie J was reduced to tears as she read it aloud.
Perhaps most interesting of all was how she closed the show.
After a predictable fake ending that culminated in her finishing up with her most popular song, “Price Tag,” Jessie J took to the mic one last time and uttered her final words.
“My name is Jessica Cornish,” she said, shedding her performer identity and addressing the people as a normal person, reminding us of her messages of love, self-respect, and humanity.
In the end, this knowledge of her humanity is what truly makes her feel “sexy and free.”