On Tuesday, Jessie Reyez took the stage at Lincoln Hall, but this was no casual Tuesday night. This was meant for a dedicated following of fans who prepared for this concert months in advance. The crowd was hyped before Jessie even stepped on stage. At the beginning of “Fuck Being Friends,” the audience had become so packed they made the floor of the showroom disappear. The aggression in Jessie’s voice and the crowd was glass shattering. From the start, fans sang the lyrics with an emotion that shook the place more than the bass of the amps.
After singing her pride anthem “Imported” she turned to the crowd and shared that her favorite lyric from that song is, “I’m not from here, I’m imported.” She disrupted the cheers that followed to ask those who were immigrants and children of immigrants to raise their hands. Hands flew in the air in an array of yellow wristbands. Absorbing the demographics of her audience, Jessie let her Spanish fluency effortlessly fly off her tongue, showcasing her Columbian accent. The crowd erupted in admiration. Her spoken Spanish led her into a gut-wrenching performance of “Sola.” As she hit the last note, her voice shook as she was filled with emotion and the audience used their applause to comfort her.
During her performance of “Great Ones”, she paused during the chorus and the audience took over for her, never missing a beat. When Jessie joined back in, she KO’d every note. You could see her body quiver from how powerfully she was singing. What stood out the most to us was the amount of time Jessie took to converse with her fans. Story after story, she and the crowd found a better understanding of one another and realized they had experienced many of the same things. As the bond grew tighter, an adoring fan shouted out “I love you Jessie!” to which Jessie charmingly replied, “Love you too bitch!”
The story that received the greatest reaction of the night was the one she told before her performance of “Gatekeeper.” She shared how when she was a younger performer, she met a producer who recognized her singing abilities but told her that if she wanted to succeed, she would have to suck dick for a deal. The disturbing story was met with sympathetic “boos” and shouts. “If the person next to you isn’t reacting,” she said, “I don’t want them here.” After her in your face rendition, she brought positive vibes back into the room. She succeeded by praising Chicago for its welcoming environment. She gave Chicago the proud title of being “the first U.S. town to fuck with her.”
She ended the night with the song everyone had been waiting for. She discussed how this song was the catalyst for her way out of her depression and if it wasn’t for this song she wouldn’t be playing a sold-out show in Chicago. Sitting peacefully on a stool she reached for her acoustic guitar and requested the lights be turned off and the audience turn their phone flashlights on. Looking out into the audience, it looked like a starry night sky. As she played the first chords of “Figures” the audience clenched their chests knowing they were about to witness a passionate and touching rendition of the song. She paused and tied her hair in her signature half bun as she challenged the audience to prove their knowledge of the lyrics. The audience accepted and a smile swept across her face as they did not let her down. She radiated a grace that commanded the attention of the room, and they were happy to give it to her.
The minute she left the stage, a “Jessie-Jessie-Jessie” cheer erupted. Less than a minute later the queen of the night was back for an encore, sporting a Bulls Pippen jersey. As she prepared for the closer, she cried out that the last thing she was going to do was leave crying about an ex. Stage diving and spraying water left the audience leaving getting to tell all their friends about the souvenirs one could never buy at the merch stand.
For a woman no taller than 5’5”, her presence in the room was incredibly powerful. When the night finally ended, it was very clear that the concert was a group therapy session dealing with self-expression, anger management, and letting loose. Thank you Jessie Reyez for creating a safe space for that.
Written by: Andrea Carrillo/Colleen Kennedy
Photos by: Andrea Carrillo/Colleen Kennedy