Words by Victoria Russell

Ever since I first heard Fighting Fire in early 2011, I’ve been keeping a close eye on Jess Mills’ music. So far she’s released/been featured on 4 EPs: Fighting Fire (collaboration with DnB & Dubstep producer Breakage), Vultures, Live For What I’d Die For and Pixelated People. All Jess’ EPs have been really refreshing to listen to, as they explore elements that aren’t currently at the forefront of the music ‘scene’. Considering all this, you won’t be at all surprised that I jumped at the chance of being able to review Jess’ live set at ‘Shepherds Bush Empire’ (supporting Emeli Sandé).

At 8:30, on the dot, Jess emerged. She looked fabulous in a black and white body suit, (don’t quote me on that though, the lighting made colours tricky to define!), several silver bangles/bracelets and natural looking makeup. Once the spotlight was on full beam and a calming blue wash covered the back of the stage, an acoustic rendition of 'Pixelated People' began. Being used to the original with synths and a heavy sub bass, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the song sounded with a vocal and piano/keyboard arrangement. The drums then kicked in, providing a heavy beat that got the crowds’ heads nodding.

Next up was 'Ghosts'. Like all of her tracks, the lyrics were thought provoking and sung with sincerity; but what particularly impressed, was the combination of deep lyrics, dark synth lines and Breakbeat drums. It’s very difficult to create a ‘dancey’ track that is also powerful on an emotional level; Jess nailed it!

'How Could This Be Love' followed on swiftly. This time, the gentle drums, mellow piano and echoed vocals really allowed Jess to own the stage. You could hear a pin drop in the stalls when Jess belted out 'How Could this Be Love If It’s Killing Me'.

'Live For What I’d Die For”, also performed with minimal instrumentation, similarly highlighted why the “Jess Mills” sound is rather unique; its quirkiness lies in its combination of dark 80s-inspired synths, minimal Dubstep-esque beats and breathy, yet powerful, vocals.

To round up the set, Jess performed a (currently) unreleased track called 'For My Sins'. Although the track seemed to sit in Jess’ lower vocal range, (which perhaps isn’t as strong as the higher), the crowd really connected with the music through its driving beat, ending the set on a real high.

If I had to make a couple of gripes, it would be that the bass drum was far too loud during much of the performance. It not only deafened the audience at times, but also drowned Jess’ vocals out on several occasions. Additionally, I feel the need to call out that the mic wasn’t loud enough between songs - when Jess introducing tracks it was near impossible to hear her. I wouldn’t be quite so peeved, but it’s a really simple error to correct, so please take note!

All in all, the gig was a phenomenal success as Jess really captivated the crowd with her unique tone; I’d highly recommend her live sets to anyone and everyone!

Although my review is of Jess’ performance, a final mention must go to the headline act, Emeli Sandé, who was nothing short of spectacular. She gave us a quirky reggae rendition of her track 'Where I Sleep' and Rock versions of 'Breaking The Law' and 'Mountains' - all of which drove the crowd wild. Every note was spot on and her powerful voice lifted the roof off the building, multiple times. Hats off to Emeli!