We’ve been following the career of the 22-year-old Blackpool songstress since we stumbled upon her during The Great Escape a few years ago. Since then we’ve seen her pretty much every time she’s been back in Brighton and interviewed her on three occasions.
Her journey has been a slow and steady ascent, with plenty of plaudits, but until recently little commercial success. Both her biggest hits have been as a featured vocalist (on Bombay Bicycle Club’s ‘Luna’ and most recently on Clean Bandit’s ‘Up’, a song she also wrote. She also made the BBC’s Sound of 2015 shortlist, only to be beaten by fellow Blackpudlians, Years And Years and James Bay (who not that long ago was supporting her!)
Most importantly, she finally has an album to promote. It was a long time in the making, but ‘Unguarded’ is a collection of songs showcasing her writing skills and pitch-perfect voice. Produced in Los Angeles by Ariel Rechtshaid (who recently worked with Vampire Weekend and Haim) it marks a turning point in Morris’ career which thus far has been built on EP’s and collaborations.
Playing Komedia however was not a huge leap for her. It seemed an odd choice for the Brighton leg of the tour, as a hardly capacious venue she’s already played. Surely Concorde 2 would have been better suited. Indeed, she will be back headlining there later in the year. Perhaps slow and steady was always part of the master-plan, she’s clearly built up a big enough following that Komedia was sold-out. Tonight’s tiny stage proved too small to accommodate her new backdrop (a sure sign someone in her team is thinking big) and was barely large enough to contain her and her three-piece band, with Rae seated literally a couple of feet from those at the front.
As is always the case at a Rae Morris show, the first thing striking you after her big hair is her big smile and her genuine surprise that so many people have come to see her. Her modesty is one of the things making her so endearing and a bashful grin rarely leaves her face.
When we first saw her, it was just her and a keyboard. Now her band (who’ve accompanied her for over a year) lend a subtlety to the music which never overpowers the songs. There are other subtle differences too. They all relate to her growing up and growing confidence: she wears a little more makeup nowadays, and tonight she wore a rather bold jumpsuit. Evidence perhaps, someone behind the scenes is working harder on her image. But the biggest difference is with her confidence. Whether in conversing with the audience or leaving the sanctuary of her keyboard to sing standing up, it’s like witnessing a musician taking their first steps from being a novice to becoming a seasoned pro.
Whilst looking good is part of her armoury, what makes Rae really stand out is her spellbinding voice. Immediately distinctive, it nods to Kate Bush (her childhood idol) but with more vulnerability and range. She was on excellent form at Komedia, despite suffering from a mild throat infection.
It’s also a voice lending itself perfectly to singing with others. Tonight she brought in support act Fryars to duet with her on ‘Cold’, a song they wrote together about two lovers analysing a failed relationship. She also performed ‘Up Again’ the song she wrote, and sang on, for Clean Bandit. It’s one of the best she’s written and not surprisingly a highlight of the set. Other memorable songs ftom the fourteen played included ‘Closer’ and the uptempo ‘Do You Even Know?’
This is likely to be the last time Morris will be able to play such intimate spaces. As more people fall under her spell, venues will have to be significantly bigger. With her artistic background, it won’t be too long before she’s able to bring a lot more production to these live shows.