Ever since I first stumbled upon her at The Great Escape back in 2012, playing to a hundred or so people in the basement of the Queens Hotel, I’ve always been captivated by Rae Morris. Chatting with her afterwards, I began to get to know the shy girl behind the piano. Since then, I’ve followed her career closely and seen her whenever she’s returned to Brighton. Over the years I’ve watched her bloom from a shy singer into a confident performer. I’ve also had the pleasure of interviewing her a couple of times.
Most people probably know her from appearances on other people’s records. She sang with Bombay Bicycle Club on ‘Luna’ and with Clean Bandit on ‘Up Again’ a song that she co-wrote. Like her hero, Kate Bush, her voice is instantly recognisable and lends itself equally well to a wide variety of genres. Her latest collaboration, ‘Blakkst Skn’ for example, is with an Irish rapper!
But tonight, however, she was on her own, albeit backed by her three-piece band. Once she would play the entire show sat behind her keyboards, then she began standing for a couple of songs. Now, she plays keyboards standing up and it makes a huge difference to the way she performs. Indeed, she now performs songs, rather than just playing them. There’s more emotion evident than ever before, she seems much more comfortable onstage and rather than being stuck behind a piano, now she’s full of movement, flicking her hair and exuding confidence.
Confidence comes from playing and having played no less than 28 festivals this summer including the likes of Glastonbury, T In The Park and Bestival, she has noticeably developed as a live performer. Even the clothes she now wears make a statement – tonight it was a stylish black trouser suit – and one can detect a touch more effort in the make-up department. That she’s got the looks, the voice, or the song-writing prowess was never in doubt. The question was whether she had the star quality. I’d say it’s getting there, but she’s not quite got it yet. She’s still endearing onstage, almost embarrassed that anyone has come out to see her and she absolutely needs a big hit of her own. That though I think is just a matter of time.
Touring as she recently admitted is her “absolute comfort zone” and this headline tour is the end of what she refers to as her album cycle. ‘Unguarded’ her debut record was mostly recorded in LA with the much-vaunted producer Ariel Rechtshaid (whose recent credits include artists of the stature of Brandon Flowers, Haim and Vampire Weekend) and her music regularly pops up in TV shows and ad campaigns.
As modest as she may come across onstage, the 23-year-old’s choice of producer and the people she surrounds herself with, point to someone fiercely driven who knows what they want and won’t settle for anything less. This tour raised her bar significantly higher than whenI saw her earlier this year at the far smaller Komedia. Now her name is writ large on the backdrop. Unfortunately, Brighton didn’t get the string quartet she had with her at Shepherds Bush Empire and neither did we see Bombay’s Jack Steadman or Fryars, both of whom joined her on stage in London.
Instead we got an enchanting, intimate performance by one of the best young vocalists in Britain today. She’s already penned some beauties, but one that really stood out was ‘For You’ a ballad from her debut album that I’d never really taken much notice of until it appeared in the final episode of Doctor Foster. Before playing it, she told us it was one of the first songs she wrote and it was written five years ago.
Although she now lives in London, being from Blackpool, Rae clearly enjoys visiting the coast and coming to Brighton in particular “I love to be by the sea” she discloses. Judging by the warm reception, Brighton loves having her come visit.