Words by Tom Frodsham
Right now you could get a bit dizzy just looking at all the female solo artists in the UK charts. There’s just so many. And all catering to different music tastes. You’ve got the Swift’s, and the Goulding’s and the Glynne’s. Not that I’m complaining because I love it all. But one artist, Rae Morris, has managed to release one of the year’s best debut albums without the help of a Kardashian sized amount of Instagram followers or attention seeking headlines. Following the release of the album she’s had a busy year gigging at many of this year’s major festivals. On Saturday night she popped into The Ritz to perform in Manchester for the first time since she sold out Gorilla in February.
With her band ready (including a 4 piece string quartet) and a packed out venue, Morris entered the stage to applause in a bright printed jumpsuit and trademark lion mane hair and flowed through the first three tracks like a pro. Rae comes from Blackpool so as a fellow northerner she has fond memories of Manchester “I wrote the lyrics for the next track back home in Blackpool and in Manchester so it’s extra special to perform it here”. That track was ‘For You’ where Rae’s voice couldn’t have sounded any crisper. She’s got one of those delicate voices that surprisingly hit the high notes with control and strength.
Her debut album ‘Unguarded’ was released in January. It’s an easy listen where you don’t need to skip any tracks because each song is individual, quirky and fundamentally pop. Morris performed every song from the album through out the night plus ‘Up Again’, a track she recorded with Clean Bandit for their album. It was the first time Morris stepped out from behind her keyboard so it was nice to see her mix up the show and perform the song instead of just singing it.
The show seemed to be split in two halves. The first was full of the emotional, slower tracks from the album like ‘Cold’ and ‘Skin’ then in the second half Rae upped the ante with the more up tempo tracks. Building up the momentum as the night went on. ‘Closer’ is a catchy RnB flavoured track, followed by ‘Do You Even Know’ which had a great climax at the end making use of her excellent live band.
There was an endearing quality about Morris when she was talking to the audience; it came across like she’s still a bit nervous about being up there in front of everyone. When she sang she moved to the music like it was the most natural thing to her. That massive head of long curly hair (think Ariel in The Little Mermaid) bounced around her as she performed. Her technique and innate quality to feel the song made watching her a breath of fresh air.
Morris got out from behind the keys again for ‘Under The Shadows’, a song that’s “made for you guys on this dancefloor”. The track is a haunting pop gem that deserved to have done better in the charts than it did. It’s like a modern day take on Kate Bush’s ‘Running Up That Hill’. The galloping beat and echoing vocals remind me of Bush’s track and make it a stand out track on the album. Big words I know, but it’s a good song so if you haven’t heard it you should click below right now.
For the encore Morris returned to squeeze in two more tracks ending with ‘Love Again’, “the track you’ve probably all been waiting for, to dance to under that disco ball”. The single ended up being used in that BooHoo advert Morris featured in. Don’t let that online retailer put you off because it’s a catchy uplifting track that got the whole venue revved up and dancing. Rae ended the night with a humble farewell to The Ritz audience, “Thank you Manchester for tonight, it’s been a very special night I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you all coming out to see the show”. It was the perfect ending to a show that proved Morris has a promising pop career ahead of her.