Jesse: Review ‘Live in Vancouver’

Jesse 'Live in Vancouver, review by Leslie Chu
Jesse 'Live in Vancouver, BC, photo by Leslie Chu

Jesse Rutherford, also creatively known as Jesse, made his way to the Biltmore Cabaret last night. Although he came without his band, moody rockers the Neighbourhood (not to be confused with the Neighborhood), he brought along two close friends, Hearts <3 and Goody Grace.

First up was Hearts <3. The Orange County-born, Los Angeles-based artist sang heartfelt tunes that fell somewhere between Kevin Abstract and Future. The crowd didn’t know his music, but he hooked them with an acoustic cover of “Hey There Delilah” by Plain White T’s. On “Two Face,” he sang about fake friends, like he was imagining future fame or trying to will it into existence, the way one does with a vision board.

Also making his Vancouver debut was Manitoba’s Goody Grace. And also like Hearts <3, he’s based in LA, and his style was confessional. “Memories,” he said, told the story of his life, which included dropping out of school in 10th grade to pursue music. And one more time like Hearts <3, he sang to backtracks except for guitar on a couple of songs including “So, What Does This All Mean?.” (Although, Grace opted for an electric instead of an acoustic.) Right after announcing that he will be turning 22 next month, he covered the Pixies’ “Where Is My Mind?,” a song nearly one-and-a-half times his age. And on his last song, “Two Shots,” he rapped competently enough; it’s as if rapping is a prerequisite for any pop star today, the way pop stars used to need to be able to execute full dance routines.

Although Jesse had a producer/hypeman urging fans to put their fucking hands up all night, Jesse would have done just fine on his own. “You can hate me if you want,” he sang on second song “Better to Lie,” but there was nothing but love for him.

Jesse is a bundle of contradictions, and not only because he sang a bouncy song about heroin called “Junkie.” He’s a mish-mash of unlikely (but increasingly likely) stylistic elements, as were Grace and Hearts <3. Jesse is a hype-and-heart mix of booming pop/trap/rap/rock. He can turn down, too: His producer stood back so Jesse could perch himself on a stool and play weepy solo acoustic songs including “Born to be Blonde” and “Bloom Later.” They couldn’t have contrasted more with the dank trap of “My Ways.” But then it was back to upbeat numbers including “Bi” and “Story of My Life.”

Could the audience have glimpsed the next Kevin Abstract or Shawn Mendes? Jesse and his LA-based coterie are part of an increasingly common breed, so quite possibly.

review by Leslie Chu