Sci&Tech Editor Leah Renz reviews Jessie Reyez’s performance, praising her energy and her ability to be vulnerable on stage.
‘Bra city b*tchhhhh’ reads the caption on Jessie Reyez’s Instagram story after performing at Digbeth’s O2 Institute on Saturday night. Notorious for inducing mass bra-throwing, Reyez paces across the stage and sings with multiple bras hanging on her arms; there are more slung over the microphone stand and, at several points during the show, a fan – nicknamed ‘T*tties’ by Reyez – flashes her from the balcony.
This response is understandable. Reyez radiates charisma, and many of her lyrics are a delicious blend of self-love and middle-fingers to bad relationships. Reyez’s line ‘the b*tches you want, want me’, which was sung by the crowd as bras went flying, is undeniably true of the beautiful and powerful ‘Jessie mother-f*cking Reyez’.
Before Reyez took to the stage however, fellow Toronto-born musician Lavi$h opened the show beneath strobe lights like many rays of sunshine, picking him out with his guitar, or sat at the keyboard. His voice, buttery smooth, impressed most when singing his slower numbers. In the changeover, huge, shadowy hands appear, raised as if in praise. And then, with a floor- trembling thrumming of drums and guitars, and thousands of screaming fans, Jessie Reyez appeared on stage. The energy palpably rose and Reyez began her set with her high-energy hit, and current favourite song to perform, ‘BREAK ME DOWN’, from her latest album, YESSIE.
Her voice is well-rested; there’s no strain and she hardly even seems breathless, in spite of hair-flying pacing and occasional jumps. Her signature croons, on songs like ‘QUEEN ST.W’, are welcomed with further screams from the crowd. Reyez’ crowd interaction is the best I have ever seen; she sung with one fan in the balcony; collects bras like flowers; and even reads a fan letter – after receiving permission – aloud to the audience. In keeping with her mantra: ‘it’s not a concert, it’s a sing-a-long’, Reyez performs ‘F*ck it’ at request from a fan. This spontaneous acapella, alongside a setlist which ranges across her four albums, ensures masterful changes of atmosphere from hyped, hand-over-head clapping to slower ballads. Reyez’ performance of her 2018 single ‘Sola’, singing in Spanish, her long hair hanging over her guitar, became the most intimate moment of the night.
This willingness to be publicly vulnerable is a strength in her music and stage presence. When Reyez repeatedly thanks her fans, praises her band (including her infamous bass guitarist Heather) and marvels at the packed venue, so far from her home city, the gratitude is undeniably real. The end of the concert leaves one feeling inspired; it was wonderful to share space with Reyez’s enthusiasm and radical gratitude, even just for 90 minutes.
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