Review: Rae Morris at The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth

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Vibrant

Rae Morris owned the stage with energy, enthusiasm, and emotion, her strong vocals gliding over the heads of a warm and welcoming audience.

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Rae Morris was first noticed while gigging around her native Blackpool, and was signed to Atlantic Records before she turned 18. After releasing a string of singles and EPs, her 2015 album Unguarded debuted at number 9 on the UK Albums Chart to much critical acclaim. Her second album, Someone Out There, was released last month, and now she takes to the stage at Portsmouth’s 500-capacity Wedgewood Rooms as part of her UK headline tour.

The first of the two support acts for this performance was Devin-Jade, a singer-songwriter of just 17. Accompanied by only her guitar, she took to the stage with a cover of Kodaline’s ‘All I Want’, which got the chatting crowd swaying and singing. She then moved into some original tracks from her recently released EP, ‘Adolescence’, including her debut single ‘Maps’. The songs were well delivered by her sweet, youthful vocals and plucky guitar melodies, and if the attention of the crowd wavered, her potential shone through regardless.

Next to the stage was PAULi, who is following Rae Morris throughout the tour. Performing tracks from his visual EP ‘THE IDEA OF TOMORROW’ on the anniversary of its release last year, the 29-year-old’s passion for his music was infectious. He jumped down from the stage, high-fiving and singing to the audience, and kept their attention on stage with his energy and charisma. PAULi’s music, including a new tune ‘life line’, was packed full of good vibes, pure funk, and intergalactic techno, accompanied by heartfelt lyrics sung with genuine emotion and vibrancy.

As he left the stage, the crowd was high on energy and anticipation. While the energy was perhaps sapped by the wait while the crew prepared the stage, the anticipation only grew, so that when Rae Morris finally came to the stage, beaming, at 10:00pm, she was met with eager shouts and applause.

The performance’s twelve track setlist combined tracks from her recent release with those of her first album, such as ‘Cold’, ‘Love Again’, and ‘Under The Shadows’. Rae’s vocals soared ethereally, her body moving artfully and emotively, at times Kate Bush-like, surrounded by pulsing colour in the almost mystical stage space.

The first quarter of Rae’s set showcased her more low-energy tracks, focusing on her swirling vocals and intricate lyrics. She began her set with the first track from her new album, ‘Push Me To My Limit’. Its quivering strings and vocals ache for movement away from the events of her first album, Rae straining her body upwards onto her toes at times to reflect the song’s emotion. This moved into the album’s second track, ‘Reborn‘, whose lyrics come to terms with the events of the first album and move on from them with optimism and energy, Rae’s body stretching and growing into the confident musician this album has seen her become. Next a track from her first album, ‘Morne Fortuné’, whose chorus Rae accompanied by coiling hand gestures as she stood centre-stage, followed by a new track ‘Physical Form’, which saw her move to the piano.

Her first single from the new album, ‘Do It’, marked the move into the more high-energy numbers, and the audience warmed up, bopping along as she jumped about with contagious energy, radiant and obviously enjoying her time on stage. This energy continued through the next few tracks, which included ‘Cold’, featuring her long-time collaborator and current partner Fryars, whose part was taken by her drummer for this duet.

Rae then paused before ‘Dancing with Character’ to explain the story behind it, of her best friend’s grandparents who had danced the jive together every night at their local dance hall before Hazel passed away. Now her husband, George, dances alone every night in her memory. Despite the bittersweet backstory, the song was full of joy, as Rae enthusiastically spun across the stage at the song’s chorus, and the crowd swayed and sung along.

The next few tracks were more bass-heavy, and Rae finished with ‘Rose Garden’, a personal favourite of her’s to perform. The song describes Rae’s battle to help her friend with a chronic illness, and switches between the deep drums of her friend’s fight and the gentle piano of her attempts to help, her arm reaching up to signify the growing and blooming of the roses. As she left the stage, Rae smiled and bowed profusely with many thank-yous, but the crowd’s passionate applause called her back for a three-song encore, including the second bouncy single from her new album, ‘Atletico’. The album’s title track ‘Someone Out There’ ended the set, with Rae at the piano and the crowd singing lovingly along to the romantic, hopeful lyrics.

Rae’s efforts to connect to the audience on this tour paid off splendidly. Although few of the crowd seemed to know the lyrics enough to sing along, they responded with as much enthusiasm and elation as they could muster, and her gratefulness was obvious. Rae Morris filled the intimate space with ease, and my gig companion (who hadn’t heard of her before I dragged her along) had fallen in love by the time we left.

Rae Morris continues her tour in support of her latest album Someone Out There across the UK, calling at Oxford, Bristol, Brighton, and London. Tickets are available here.

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12-year-old possessive lioness and shiny goddess of all things nerdy. I am usually great and sometimes edit news. I support everyone and like everything @faithfulpadfoot. If you speak ill of musicals I may or may not bite thee.

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