Jessie Reyez might be from North of the border but on Tuesday night (Nov. 28), the Canadian songbird made New York City her home. Reyez sold-out New York City’s Bowery Ballroom “in 60 seconds,” she said and from the outset of her 45-minute set, it became apparent why tickets were so quick to sell out.
Reyez bounded onto the stage, clad in quintessential New York street style staples — a New York Yankees fitted baseball cap and Timberland boots. The singer’s larger-than-life personality filled the intimate space as she began her set belting out the words to her most recent drop off “Phone Calls” a capella, a hit back at former associates who’ve changed since the burgeoning singer’s ascent to fame.
The singer relished being “crazy” on “Shutter Island” — “My straight jacket’s custom-made though (With fucking rubies)/ I’m crazy just like Galileo” — and her fans loved every moment of it, as she paused the music and let the audience take over for the rest of the song.
Reyez often referred to New York as a city that “feels like home” and treated fans like family as she FaceTimed with a concertgoer’s toddler daughter and purred “I love you’s” in between songs. She gifted fans a snippet of new, unreleased music during her set, launching into a finger-snappy earworm seemingly titled “Fuck Being Friends,” where she addresses a toxic-sounding ex who seems to only want to be friends for his selfish gain.
For some, Reyez landed on radars following the release of her acclaimed Kiddo EP and her performance at this year’s BET Awards, which lit the internet afire as the demand for information on the rising singer reached a fever pitch. Not only did she make her award show debut this year, but she also notched a collaboration with dance music’s most recognizable name — Calvin Harris.
As an atmospheric, funk-nodding melody pervaded the space, Reyez transitioned into “Hard To Love,” her collaboration off Harris’ latest album Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1. Halfway through her set, the Canadian crooner channeled her early internet days of covering popular songs and paid homage to Chance the Rapper as she covered the rapper’s 2013 Acid Rap highlight “Cocoa Butter Kisses.”
At one point in the night, Reyez brought out a red balloon, like the one on the cover photo for Kiddo, with her “Columbian King and Queen (Skit)” lingering in the background — a tribute to the singer’s parents, who were watching their daughter command the stage from the VIP section balcony above the Bowery Ballroom stage. Amid the crowd’s laughter and Reyez’s unflinching, brash delivery, the emotional part of the night came when Reyez performed the poignant track “Gatekeepers.”
On “Gatekeepers,” a disgruntled Reyez condemns a sexual predator in the music industry who told the then 20-year old singer, “If you’re not using your p—y, you’re not serious about your dreams.” Doused in deep red lights, Reyez fought back tears as she sang, “Oh I’m the gatekeeper/ Spread your legs/ Open up/ You could be famous/ If you come up anywhere else, I’ll erase you.” The tear-stained singer powered through the emotional song with the help of the crowd and their roaring applause for her bravery.
“For all the people who have been through it and are talking about it, and all the men that have been through it and are advocating against it, shout out to you y’all,” she proclaimed, as she tried hard to maintain her composure. It was a fitting speech given the wave of sexual harassment and assault accusations serving as a dark cloud over the entertainment and music industry in recent months. She continued: “There’s power in numbers, so shout out to y’all for standing for something bigger than yourselves.”
Reyez finished off her set by blazing through her “fake” last song and breakout hit, “Figures,” before returning the stage for “Fuck It.” The exuberant crooner punctuated her set with the lively “Blue Ribbon,” and as the adrenaline rushed through her veins, she jumped into the audience and crowd surfed.
After returning to the stage and catching her breath, she politely asked the crowd to sing an early “Happy Birthday” to her father, who would be celebrating his birthday the next day, and they obliged. It’s evident why the bond between the singer and her fanbase is so strong: Reyez’s brutally honest and all-too-relatable lyrics on love and life make the ills of the 20-somethings in the crowd feel like a shared problem, rather than a personal struggle.
Despite being backed by 267k followers and counting on Instagram, Reyez’s humility and charm left a lasting impression on her audience as they pined for her return with chants of an encore. She didn’t end up returning to the stage, but that’s hardly the last the New York crowd will see of this budding talent.
Grateful for today All of this means nothing without people to share it with Thank you to those who love me for me…flaws and all Life isn’t perfect but it’s damn near close. These moments here help me focus on the positive so much Thank you guys for these beautiful memories Thank you for the gifts And thank you for singing happy birthday to my father with me ?? I ?? NYC — @lizbordenjordan