By Poppy Tohill
Artist: Jessie J
Date / Venue: Wednesday March 11th, Vector Arena, Auckland
In the heightened period of my love for Jessie J three years ago, I was more than pleased when I purchased tickets to what was going to be her first New Zealand show. Not long after, unfortunately having to come to terms with the cancellation of this very gig.
However three years later finally saw my ‘Price Tag,' and ‘Domino' loving self at the Vector Arena. Standing and waiting in anticipation for what was a free show from the British pop star, thanks to iHeartRadio, and the wait proved more than worth it.
Eventually making her way onto the stage, arriving fashionably late, in her sparkly ankle boots, sheer "Auckland" t-shirt dress, exposing her immensely long legs and sleek bob haircut, it's fair to say Jessie J not only sounded the part tonight, but definitely had the killer look to match.
From the moment she stepped foot onto the stage and opened her mouth, two things instantly became very obvious to me. One - Jessie J can sing, and I mean really sing, not auto-tune sing. Holding notes of all heights for exhausting lengths of time, this pop star not only sings enthusiastically, but sometimes also sharply, not to mention with a lot of energy. Which takes me to the second aspect I noticed. Energy. "Does she ever run out of it?" I found myself asking, numerous times throughout the night. I'm sure she must be utterly exhausted after each performance, but there's certainly no way in hell you could spot that from the stage.
Essentially touring off the back of her latest album, ‘Sweet Talker,' Jessie J kicked things off with album track opener, single and mission statement ‘Ain't Been Done,' which undoubtedly set the pace for the rest of the night as Jessie alternated between rapping at an intense, not to mention impressive speed, and belting out notes at the top of her lungs as she danced from one side of the stage to the other in a matter of milli-seconds.
The enthusiastic crowd proved they were more than alive when Jessie took things back a year to perform‘Sexy Lady,' from her 2013 album, ‘Alive,' which quickly faded to an end as the British pop star made the most of the similar song themes, belting out the ever so recognisable "I'm feeling sexy and free" intro to her hit single and obvious crowd favourite ‘Domino.'
With the crowd singing along to Jessie's every word, she stopped to hug herself as the song came to an end, announcing "I feel like we all just hugged!" to which received many cheers and appreciative applause from the audience who were undeniably just as happy to be there as Jessie herself seemed to be. Beaming from ear to ear she went on to explain, "This is my first show in New Zealand! I was so angry when the last one got cancelled, because believe me that wasn't my decision. So I'm going to give you everything!" the audience roared in response as she launched into ‘Seal Me With A Kiss,' another hit from her recently released album.
Without wasting any time, the drum beat and rhythms of ‘Seal Me With A Kiss' transposed into that of‘Abracadabra,' a track from the pop stars 2011 debut album ‘Who You Are.'
Throughout ‘Keep Us Together' came the introduction of the band, as an elongated instrumental allowed Jessie to introduce each member, who each responded with a short quipped solo to show off their musical talent. At this stage the lighting technicians were appearing to have a little bit of difficulty getting the spotlighting from band member to member right, but they managed to get there in the end with a little help and number of cheerful digs from Jessie, herself.
Slowing things down a notch, next was what remains one of the highlights for I'm sure, many who were at the concert last night. Utilising the podium, set of stairs centre stage, Jessie took to the stairs to perform a mesmerising rendition of her debut album title track, ‘Who You Are.' The raw, emotion, power and extensive amount of passion she poured into the ballad made it an exceptionally monumental performance all in all.
"You can sing" she chimed mid-way through the song, passing the microphone to a group of fans at the front. Although singing somewhat out of tune, the whole crowd joined in and applauded the young girls singing, as Jessie continued to walk around the stage giving a number of excited fans the chance to sing along, eventually claiming the microphone once more to bring the song to an end.
Upon learning the first two singers names (Alisha & Jazz), Jessie went on to do, possibly one of the greatest and sweetest things I have ever witnessed a number one chart-topping artist to do at their concert. She sang a song not only to, but about the girls. Singing questions such as "When is your birthday?" and "What do you do with your days," also singing the various responses she received from the pair.
For about three minutes the entire audience stood listening to Jessie make up and sing a humorous song about the two girls. In appreciation and admiration, the entire audience joined in the spirit of the game, laughing and applauding Jessie as she went on to "change things up" and rap about Ben, "a 15 year old boy on the other side of the stage."
Returning back to the set list, ‘Sweet Talker' was a dance floor hit not only for the crowd, but also Jessie herself who pranced from one end of the stage to the other, showing off both her singing talent and dancing moves, which were certainly not too shabby.
The most heart-melting and warming moment of the night came when Jessie spotted a young fan in the audience crying.
"I'll never understand how people just get to a point where they see me and freak out- 'oh my gosh look it's Jessie J' and begin crying", she announced. "I'm just me! I don't think I'll ever get used it and I don't even think I want to," she chuckled, walking to the edge of the stage towards the crying fan.
"But why are you crying sweetheart?" she asked the young girl. "Are you okay? Please don't cry, because I get all awkward and don't know what to do or say," Jessie chimed sympathetically. "Do you want a tissue?" she went on to ask the overwhelmed fan. "I don't have one, but you can have my towel," Jessie announced, passing the towel to the young girl, who by this stage Jessie had learnt was named Hannah.
The warmth and affection Jessie continued to shower Hannah and the rest of the audience with during the course of the night was nothing short of exceptional.
"Don't cry through this next song though okay Hannah, because it's ‘Burnin Up' and imagine how hard that would be," she worked into her introduction, continuing on to sing one short snippet of the tune pretending she was also in tears. "So stay strong and let's go!" Jessie proclaimed as she kicked into what was yet another crowd favourite, that had everyone's hands in the air clapping along from start to finish.
Checking on Hannah once more as ‘Burnin' Up' came to an end, Jessie genuinely seemed lovingly overwhelmed that the fan was still crying. "Aw you're still crying!" Jessie pointed out. "You tell me what's wrong, okay," she assured Hannah passing the microphone to the young girl. The poor thing could barely get a word out, eventually managing to mumble- "I just love you so much" before the microphone made it's way back to the front.
Then Jessie, now sitting cross-legged on the stage went on to give the entire audience some of the best advice I don't think anyone, (especially Hannah) will be forgetting any time soon.
Reassuring the crowd that she (Jessie) is only here because of us - the fans, who inspire her everyday, she went on to explain that "For everyday you have success, there's another day you have to work harder. You have the whole world ahead of you right now" Jessie went on, " so just really dream and if there's something you want to achieve, just go out and do it, don't be afraid of what anyone says, just get out and do it. Be strong! I'm not this character everyday, but when I need to be, I bring her out."
"Now I'm going to need you to stop crying for this one and be a dude about it," Jessie went back to Hannah. "Dig deep and show me your inner dude," she reassured the crowd before launching into an outstanding, energetic and epic performance of ‘Do It Like A Dude,' which included a great deal of dancing and bright flashing strobe-lights.
Following this, Jessie closely shadowed by her band departed the stage, which quickly darkened as the lights faded to black. Within seconds the repetitive ‘Jessie J' chant began. The lights soon began flashing once more and Jessie, whose quick costume change now saw her wearing her very own ‘Bang Bang' tee with the same sleek black skin tight shorts, run onto the stage for a three song encore which included the hits ‘Price Tag,' ‘Masterpiece' and last but not least, ‘Bang Bang,' the explosive finale that was at a standard beyond words can even describe.
These days, egos are commonly apparent in big pop stars at a similar level to Jessie J, inconsequently it comes with the fame. However, the remaining factor that stood out to me throughout the whole of Jessie J's performance, is that within her two hour slot on stage, she did everything in
her power to break down that barrier. This, in my opinion deserves a lot of respect and recognition in its own right, from such a performer. From an exceptional performance musically to inspirational crowd banter and advice, it became very clear to me that Jessie J is more than just an artist. She's an all round performer who treated everyone to a stunning experience last night, and one I'm more than glad I got to witness, at that.