“You’re the one waiting for yourself at the end of the tunnel,” Jessie Reyez, a 27-year-old Toronto-born singer and songwriter, said to a sold-out crowd during a quiet reflective moment in her set at Union Transfer Nov. 20. Reyez’s set ranged from doling out encouraging advice for “people following their dreams,” who she dubs as “dream chasers” to wild energetic songs like “Dear Yessie.”
Reyez’s music is confessional, raw and relevant. Her new EP “Being Human in Public” tackles many different topics such as female sexuality, working hard, fighting off negative energy, politics and honesty from her lovers and herself. Reyez performed all of the songs off “Being Human in Public,” such as “Body Count” and “Apple Juice,” as well as some from her last EP such as “Kiddo.”
Reyez catapulted to fame through her songwriting on “Promises” with Calvin Harris and Sam Smith and through her track “Figures” off her first EP “Kiddo.” She was also recently featured on two songs from Eminem’s album “Kamikaze” — “Nice Guy” and “Good Guy.”
The show opened with Savannah Re who sung about her relationships with her current husband, past exes and herself. Re sang soulful R&B with bass-heavy, danceable rhythms in the background. Her songs were honest and touching. The crowd favorite was probably “Count ‘Em Up,” a song about having lots of guys chasing after her. Re’s vocal range was showcased in “Best Is Yet To Come,” a song about knowing that something better is coming after a bad relationship.
Reyez got deeply personal as she talked about struggling with getting work in the industry and battling depression. She talked about how she first grew her thick skin around age 20 or 21. At that time, she was begging for people to listen to her mixtapes and she finally met a producer who gave her a chance. She sang for him and he told her she could sing, but she would need to suck d— in order to succeed. This inspired the song “Gatekeeper” which resonates with many women speaking out in the #MeToo movement.
Sprinkled in between sets, Reyez’s gave advice to the audience about chasing their dreams and also told little stories about herself. She encouraged all these “dream chasers” to get into their chosen industry through any means possible. She started as a songwriter and worked her way up to being on the stage. She also told a story of her first tour in Philadelphia when she sung “Shutter Island” from “Kiddo.” Although she finished the song and put the mic down, people kept singing.
Reyez has a way of being succinct through the tone of her voice and word choice. She is one of those artists who are better live than on recordings because of her energy. She feels everything and one can see it all over her face. She runs and jumps all over the stage. It is like her energy expands to fill the room and the audience can’t help but be mesmerized by it. They seem to feel her passion for songwriting and her career at every point throughout the concert.
Reyez’s set was dictated by a series of moments she created during each song. At one point, she came down stage to play guitar and sing “Figures.” The lights were shut off and everyone in the audience waved their flashlights to the beat. She has this distinct way of going back into the emotions of the song, no matter how long ago the events in the song happened. Another moment was the mosh pit she created in the center of the crowd during “Nice Guy,” a collaboration between Reyez and Eminem about a guy trying to be decent, even though his girlfriend thinks he is cheating. One of the most beautiful moments of the set was when Reyez sang “Sola,” her first song entirely in Spanish. Everyone sang along with just as much feeling as Reyez who sat on a stool towards the front of the stage.
Even though Reyez’s set relied on lights to create effect, such as bright white spotlights when she performed “Apple Juice,” the mood was all dictated by Reyez. Her connection to the audience through songs like “Figures” and “Sola” was definitely among the top highlights.
Some people thought the concert ended when Reyez left the stage after singing “Figures,” which was supposedly the last song of the night. Fortunately, she came back after a few minutes to continue with “Blue Ribbon” and got the crowd excited again.
Reyez ended her set by thanking her band and asking them to demonstrate their talent on their instruments through solos. Seeing Reyez’s humbleness and gratitude throughout the show for her fans, her band and how she got started made the lyrics resonate with her audience even more. Jessie Reyez knows how to create an honest, positive space in a world where that does not seem possible sometimes.