Photos courtesy of John Cotter
CHICAGO — A brisk night in May screamed summertime vibes when Jordan Ward came to town. A native to the nearby St. Louis, his headlining set at Reggie’s on South State Street Tuesday (May 9) not only felt like an overdue homecoming, but an assertion of star power for the FORWARD enigma.
The dual-sided bar-venue fills about 300 people at capacity, and Ward’s set packed in every crevice. Fans lined the walls, adjacent stairwells and crammed the back-of-house to get a glimpse at his performance. Vantage points are a dime a dozen at the intimate Reggie’s. His family is in attendance, peering from atop the brick-and-mortar canopy adorned with premium seating and knee-high table sets. I stand perched on the raised stadium-style ledge that feels like a stage of its own, watching Jordan bust out jokes, dance moves and letting his sparkling personality do most of the work for him.
Ward’s performance glistens with energy, poise and overall positive vibes. He oozes personality; quirky, confident and loving every second. He’s a performer at heart, pursuing a professional career in dance prior to his transition into music — showcasing his grooves during his setlist which featured past hits like “Lil Baby Crush,” “OkOk/Hibachi,” “Holdin Me Back,” “ZOOM ZOOM” as well as FORWARD mainstays like “IDC,” WHITE CROCS” and more. He entices the crowd with jaw-dropping vocals that sound just like his studio recordings, blowing away longtime listeners and earning new fans in the process.
Cheers and claps fill the room each time Jordan grips the mic, breaks a shoulder shrug or smiles wide enough that it touches the stickered stars on his cheeks. There’s a moment of chaos that breaks into jubilation when Jordan disappears after “DANCE MACHINE,” returning to the stage screaming, jumping and flexing with his shirt off. Idioms like “LETSGOSKI” and “GANGOOO” have become a norm for Ward supporters, well bought in to the genreless talent’s soaring stock. The music always speaks for itself, and as for Ward, it speaks to his caliber. His live show is fun, carefree and all about participation. Jordan lives for the moment, and for the fans, that’s what matters most. Keeping us on the edge, the fake-out ending of “CHERIMOYA” invited chants of “one more song,” where Ward swiftly returned with his biggest hit: “FAMJAM4000.” You thought it was over?!”, he exclaimed, bringing it home by “bringing the love back.”
Ward’s first-ever headlining tour this May came off the heels of his opening set on JID and Smino’s “Luv Is 4Ever Tour,” Smi’s international “Louphoria Tour” and performance at J. Cole’s coveted Dreamville Festival in April. Be sure to catch the TOURWARD finale tonight (May 13) in Los Angeles — Jordan’s home of 10 years amid being raised in St. Louis and born in Chicago. How fitting for the him to wrap in another place he calls home.
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