Although Blackpool born and bred, when Rae Morris takes the stage of Manchester’s Matt & Phred’s Night Club it feels like a homecoming to a city that she is happy to describe as somewhere that has proved to be a special place on her musical journey.
So much has happened in the short time since she discovered inside herself a belief that she had the talent to create songs of great beauty and the gift of the perfect voice with which to deliver them. Befitting the significance of a sellout headline show her familiar keyboard has been replaced on stage by a more splendid grand piano and even the addition of a blazing red backdrop cannot hope to match the brightness of the smile etched across her stunning features as with typical humility she genuinely expresses constant disbelief that this is really happening to her before and on many occasions during her set. These aren’t false sentiments but a reaction from the heart and it’s from deep within that same place that she summons the ability to write songs that are filled with the understanding of life’s complexities and a depth of emotion to convey her feelings - something hugely impressive in one still of such tender years.
“Don’t Go” - recently featured in the TV series “Skins” was and still is for me one of the musical highlights of the year and is an outstanding point in tonight’s set – clearly emphasizing a further step in Rae’s ability to write and perform with intensity and feeling. So too is her latest song “Grow” which explores a sound somewhat different in style and production but is equally powerful and further proof if needed of her developing maturity as a songwriter. What hadn’t gone unnoticed to all of those gathered tonight was the significant placement of a cluster of chairs and music stands to the right of stage and at Rae’s request she is joined part way through the set by a string quartet. It was without doubt a moment that many of us were waiting for as anyone who has ever watched the video for one of her finest songs – “Walls” will endorse, the combination of her amazing voice with a lush but gentle string accompaniment is a musical “marriage made in heaven” – embellishing and complimenting but never overpowering as other styles of additional instrumentation might.
She admits to being a little in awe of playing with these renowned musicians but I am quite sure that the feeling is mutual. Throughout the set the audience reaction is rapturous and when an encore is demanded we are rewarded with a song that returns to the point where it all started – the achingly beautiful “Wait A While” – a song that still stands proud alongside her more recent work and one that any performer would be proud to able to close a show of this quality with. Another wonderful night of music – another significant landmark. Rae Morris is taking us on a musical journey and I for one can’t wait to see where she takes us next. One thing is for sure – I intend to be there.www.raemorris.co.uk
Review/photos by Shay Rowan