I Took My 10-Year-Old Daughter to See Her Favorite Singer Jessie Ware and Here's What Happened | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Saturday, December 9th, 2023  

I Took My 10-Year-Old Daughter to See Her Favorite Singer Jessie Ware and Here’s What Happened

Ware's October 16 Show at the 9:30 Club Was Also My Daughter's First Real Concert

Oct 30, 2023 By Mark Redfern Photography by Wendy Redfern Web Exclusive
Bookmark and Share

Being a child in a space generally meant for, and currently filled with, adults can be both an exciting and unnerving experience. My father was a music photographer who especially loved jazz (while also capturing many rock legends with his lens) and I would often be the only kid at Ronnie Scott’s, the famous London jazz club, or the lone under-ager in the photo pit at a music festival, sometimes helping my dad load his film in an era before digital cameras. It certainly did feel special to be pretty much the only child let into Ronnie Scott’s and I would sometimes sit in the basement bar, sipping a soda and talking to the nice female bartender while my dad was photographing some legendary jazz musician, although more often than not I was in the thick of it, absorbing and appreciating the music, even if my everyday childhood tastes leaned more rock and pop.

On a recent October night I put my 10-year-old daughter Rose in a similar position when she was the only child at the iconic 9:30 Club in Washington, DC (I even heard someone exclaim in surprise, “It’s a child!”). The difference was that instead of tagging along to hear music she appreciated but wouldn’t have necessarily sought out on her own, as was the case with me at Ronnie Scott’s, Rose was there to see her favorite singer—British artist Jessie Ware (whose music straddles several genres, including dance pop, neo-disco, soul, R&B, and sophisti-pop).

Rose first got into Ware via her 2017 single “Midnight,” which was a staple of my iPod playlists in the car at the time, as was “Selfish Love,” both from Ware’s third album, Glasshouse. She was eagerly anticipating Ware’s next album, 2020’s What’s Your Pleasure?, with many of its songs appearing on our playlists, including the ones Rose put together for her birthday parties, with “Spotlight,” “Remember Where You Are,” and “Adore You” being particular favorites. When Rose got a CD player in her bedroom, I bought her the deluxe edition What’s Your Pleasure? CD, which came with a set of autographed postcards. While most of her elementary school friends are listening to Taylor Swift or getting into The Beatles and other classic rock artists, if they even cared about music much at all, Rose is likely the lone 10-year-old in our town to claim Jessie Ware as her favorite.

Ware has three kids of her own, the latest born in 2021, and also hosts a hugely popular cooking and interviews podcast, Table Manners, with her mother Lennie Ware (guests across its 16 seasons so far have included Paul McCartney, Robert De Niro, Elizabeth Olsen, Dolly Parton, Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, and many others). She is also currently one of the judges on the British reality competition TV show Mamma Mia! I Have a Dream. Suffice it to say, she’s quite busy and so hasn’t toured America all that often. She didn’t tour the U.S. for What’s Your Pleasure?, in part because of the pandemic, but did play two shows last year in New York City (over six hours drive away from us). We considered taking Rose, but both were 18+ or 21+ venues. Last fall she also performed in Chicago, a 10-hour drive, but all the shows were opening for Harry Styles, who Rose doesn’t care about, as well as two shows on the other side of the country in Los Angeles. But then earlier this year Ware announced her fifth album, That! Feels Good!, released in July, and a full North American tour surrounding her two appearances at the Austin City Limits festival. They include two shows in Washington, DC, a manageable three-hour drive, and the best news was that both were at all-ages venues!

Rose, my wife Wendy (a music photographer armed with a photo-pass for the show), and I all drove up to Washington, DC the morning of the concert, arriving in time for lunch, followed by an afternoon visit to the National Air and Space Museum. We had dinner at a small Ethiopian restaurant across the street from the 9:30 Club and arrived in plenty of time to buy Rose a T-shirt before Ware went on. There was no opening act, just a DJ spinning disco, pop, and dance hits from the ’70s and ’80s (including Madonna and The Human League) to get the crowd amped. Due to having press tickets, we had wristbands for the VIP area, which was situated in front of the balcony, directly facing the stage, and had stools to sit on and a counter to put drinks on. Normally I like to be right in the thick of things in the middle of a crowd somewhat near the stage, but this was Rose’s first ever indoor club show and it was sold-out, so sitting in the VIP area seemed like a chill way to ease her into the experience. Plus she could see perfectly and the sound was great from there.

Rose had experienced live music before. When she was two-and-a-half we took her to the Landmark Festival, a two-day outdoor event in West Potomac Park under the shadow of the Washington Monument, where she got to see her favorite band at the time, CHVRCHES (if a two-year-old can truly have a favorite band), alongside The War on Drugs, Twin Shadow, Dan Deacon, TV on the Radio, and others, but she was too young to appreciate it. She’d also seen CHVRCHES again, playing a stripped down daytime set in the Austin convention center at SXSW, but again was too young. We took her to see Father John Misty at an outdoor venue in Charlottesville, VA when a babysitter fell through, but she was less than impressed. Last year she saw The War on Drugs again at the same Charlottesville venue, but she was more interested in running around with her friends who were also brought by their dad-rock loving parents than watching the band. So, in short, seeing Jessie Ware at the 9:30 Club could be labeled as Rose’s first official real concert, meaning the first time she was going to see someone she was truly excited about. My first real concert, discounting all the jazz festivals and jazz clubs I went to with my dad, was seeing Madonna’s Who’s That Girl World Tour at London’s Wembley Stadium in 1987. Wendy got an even earlier start—her first concert was seeing Olivia Newton-John on her Physical Tour in 1982, but alas she forgot her glasses at home and couldn’t really see the stage.

The 1,200-capacity 9:30 Club is much smaller than the stadiums and arenas of her parents’ first concerts, making Rose’s experience much more intimate. Not that Ware didn’t prove herself capable of commanding much larger venues. Ware’s band included a drummer, a guitarist/keyboardist, two backing singers who sometimes also danced, and two male dancers who sometimes also sang. A neon sign on the stage indicated that for the night we weren’t at the 9:30, but a club called The Pearl. She took the stage to “That! Feels Good!” the opening track, and title track, to her new album, with the dancers using horns as props, but not actually playing them. Another new album song followed, “Shake the Bottle,” which actually sounds like a Madonna song circa True Blue or Like a Prayer, with her dancers pretending to be the ex-lovers of the song. “Welcome to The Pearl. These are my Pearlettes,” Ware said, referring to her band. “And tonight my name is Mother of Pearl.”

What’s Your Pleasure? single “Ooh La La” was followed by That! Feels Good! single “Pearls,” in which Ware sings “shake it ‘till the pearls fall off.” Some attendees were even wearing pearls and at least one fan upfront gave Ware a pearl necklace. Ware’s initial outfit, a flowing low-cut red number with red thigh-high boots, made her look like a superhero, albeit one in a secondary costume intended for fancy dinners. Think Marvel’s Scarlett Witch from WandaVision, but in her classic costume. During the next song, however, the aforementioned “Selfish Love,” Ware went behind a screen for a costume change into a blue dress (the red boots remained), while still singing.

After 2023 single “Begin Again,” she stopped to address the audience. “Washington, DC, you never disappoint. It’s so good to be back, and at the 9:30 Club,” she said. “I’m sorry I haven’t been back in a while.” She then launched into an amusing story about how she was working on her vocals while watching the new Apple TV+ show Lessons in Chemistry (because she really liked the book it’s based on) when she spilt her vocal steamer down her breast, burning it. She revealed that she had put Manuka honey on the burn, as it is supposed to help it heal. “And that’s not supposed to seduce you. I don’t think I’d have much luck in this room anyway,” she joked, acknowledging the many LGBTQ fans in the audience, and saying she had sugar tits.

Ware had just celebrated her birthday the day before. “It’s the last year of my 30s and I feel good about it,” she said, adding that, despite the many other recommendations online from fans, she had her birthday dinner at a restaurant called Reveler’s Hour. She praised DC, “It’s just really nice, everyone’s really nice,” before adding: “I will say, the homeless man that came up to me yesterday did ask for 10 bucks and I thought, ‘That’s pushing it.’ I thought 10 bucks was a bit much, but maybe I’m a dick.”

Ware had a warm, likable, and relatable stage persona and interacted effortlessly with the audience. After “Remember Where You Are,” my favorite Ware song (I wish it could’ve gone on even longer), she spoke about missing her young kids while on tour. “I love this [touring], but I’ve got three kids that need their mum too and I felt very guilty today,” she said, relaying a conversation she had today with her kids, and how they said they missed her.

“Say You Love Me” followed, with Ware backed by only her keyboardist, thus showcasing the true power of her voice and the precise control she has over it, although towards the end she couldn’t control the laughing attack that derailed the song’s conclusion. Luckily the audience found it endearing. And in general they were very respectful of her, barely talking over her singing, a sharp contrast to many shows I’ve been to. For “Kind Of…Sometimes…Maybe” she was again stripped down, backed by a keyboard and guitar. The two songs were the only ones from her 2014-released sophomore album, Tough Love, and alas she performed nothing from Devotion, her 2012 debut album (one of my favorites in her discography).

After a brief break for another costume change, during which the dancers entertained us, the acoustic portion moved into the club section of the set, where Ware performed to a backing track some of her more dancefloor-ready numbers, such as “Freak Me Now,” “Ovetime” mixed with “Adore You,” and “Mirage (Don’t Stop),” with the band joining back in during the latter. It was full on disco mode with “What’s Your Pleasure?,” in which Ware sported a sparkly whip. Another costume change led into “Spotlight” and “Save a Kiss,” before the main set ended with “Beautiful People” from the new album, where Ware led the audience in some dance choreography.

In a move that likely pleased the LGBTQ segment of the audience, Ware started the encore with a cover of Cher’s 1998 hit “Believe,” thankfully without the annoying Auto-Tune that plagued the original song. She started singing it from the left balcony and then, much to Rose’s delight, walked right in front of us, before going downstairs and continuing the song while making her way through the main audience, still singing, and finishing the song onstage. The show ended with a spirited rendition of “Free Yourself,” which was the first single from That! Feels Good! “I want you to give me everything. Leave it right here. Monday night, let’s go!” Ware proclaimed and the song once again showcased just how incredibly tight her band was and ended the 20-song set on a high.

It was as solid and fantastic a first concert as a 10-year-old girl could wish for and Rose was certainly in awe of seeing her favorite singer in person. It was admittedly a bit loud for her and we soon gave her makeshift tissue earplugs. And certainly some of the dancing was a bit suggestive for her young mind, but certainly not as bad as what I witnessed Madonna do in 1987 and again on 1990’s Blond Ambition World Tour, what with her coned bras and her humping a bed live onstage.

“I thought it was really fun and awesome and I thought it was loud,” said Rose as we got into the car for the long drive home, before she fell asleep in the back seat. Hopefully it’s the first of many concerts for her and we don’t have to wait quite as long for Ware to return to these shores.


Support Under the Radar on Patreon.


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

There are no comments for this entry yet.