“Thank you so much for filling the seats and filling my dreams,” hollered Jessie J as her set in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle on a hot summer evening drew to a close, “I'm 25 years old and I get to do what I wanna do.” The lip was a-wobble and the voice cracking with the closeness of tears, and the sense was that this figure of hard-working aspiration and humble success was Jessie J – born Jessica Cornish, Brit School graduate and until-recently prime time reality television star of The Voice – at her best.
Before an audience very heavily balanced in favour of women and breathlessly excited young girls, the sense was that we were in the presence of a performer who deserves to be thought of as a role model. With her freshly shaved-for-charity hair (it was unclear whether it was just the stage lighting giving it a soft lilac glow) and a variety of different outfits including a monochrome culottes-and-cropped top combination decorated with a repeated eye motif, it was pleasing to note that she doesn’t feel the need to resort to the conventional bottle blonde and crotch-skimming minidress combination to look glamorous.
She broke off into chatter between songs, singling out individuals in the front rows to pass matey comments to or to promise signed T-shirts if they would join her in Big Sean and Dizzee Rascal's rapped vocal parts on recent single “Wild”. One amusing highlight came when she dedicated a glossy cover of Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” to all the security staff whose job was to turn their back on her. These interludes and an extended pre-encore break where she left her band and backing singers to jam through a medley of tracks by Diana Ross, Michael Jackson and Beyonce served to break up the flow and immediacy of the music somewhat, although they created a personable lack of distance between star and audience.
In the face of her vibrant personality, then, it was mildly disappointing to note that her music was pleasant but rarely exceptional. The opener “Price Tag” is still the stand-out of her catalogue and new track “Square One” was a typically glossy slice of contemporary soul-pop not a million miles from the perennial smoothness of her returning cover of Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Late”. Her finest moments were concentrated in the encore, including “Do It Like a Dude”, the pounding club beat of “Laserlight” and “Domino”, and the burst of emotional thanks which had the whole arena firmly on her side.