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Jessie J - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 25/10/2011

  by John Clarkson

published: 27 / 10 / 2011

Jessie J - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 25/10/2011


Despite appalling sound, John Clarkson finds pop sensation Jessie J taking some risks and much to commend in a show at the Edinburgh Usher Hall

Whether talking openly about her bisexuality, her teetotalism due to a medical condition or having been bullied at school, the former Jessica Cornish has proved herself one of the most articulate and thoughtful of the current crop of female pop stars. While she is not saying anything radically new, Jessie J’s calling card of tolerance has struck a chord with many, and in the audience of tonight’s sold out show at the Usher Hall there are lesbians who hold hands, the occasional drag queen, mums and dads, as well as more predictably scores of teenage boys and girls. The stage curtain drops to reveal Miss J sitting on a high-backed chair at the top of a plush red velvet stage set surrounded by her band, and instantly hundreds of camera phones stab the air. It quickly becomes apparent, as they mouth the words, that much of the crowd know every word of every song, not just her five hit singles of the last year, but every other track on her debut album, ‘Who You Are’ as well. It is a pity then that the first twenty minutes of the set are awful, dominated by the most appalling sound problems which grind everything up into a stodgy blur. J is not helped, however, by her band whom, with the exception of her two gutsy female backing singers, are rudimentary at the best. The sound difficulties continue to be something of a problem off and on for much of the rest of the night. This reviewer is very much in a minority in this audience. It seems, however, that even when they are temporarily sorted out there are too many indistinct songs in the set, tracks which are not really one thing one or another and that lack focus. J also has the habit of when stuck for a moment for something to do of mugging frantically. It is endearing and amusing at first, and then simply annoying. When J does settle down and the sound problems clear up, she is, however, an often riveting presence. Power ballads in particular seem to be her forte, and ‘Nobody’s Perfect’, upon which she achingly laments past mistakes, and the title track from the album, about remaining true to yourself, are genuinely moving. A new as-yet-unreleased song, about learning to deal with death, also promises much. ‘Do It Like a Dude’, her first single and a number two hit, predictably finds her grooving and rapping first at one side of the stage and then the other. This is, however, also a show that definitely takes some risks. ‘Price Tag’, her anthemic number one hit, finds her pulling a member of the audience, another Jess to sing it along with her. Jess, who whips a camera out her bag and pulls J in for a close-up at the end, sings well and it is surprisingly effective. J also closes the encore and set with ‘Domino’, an Australian only single and which, otherwise only appearing on a recently-released deluxe edition of the album, many of her fans will not know. One is left with the impression of a likeable, passionate singer, still at 23 finding herself musically. In a few years, and if hype does not get in the way, Jessie J could be extraordinary.

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