Gig review: Rae Morris at Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds

Rae Morris at Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds. Picture: David Hodgson
Rae Morris at Belgrave Music Hall, Leeds. Picture: David Hodgson
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Considering the town is better renown for cabaret and burlesque shows, it’s a welcome relief to find that Blackpool is also able to produce fine talent in the pop dance sphere.

Rae Morris on stage epitomises the fun and enthusiasm that a town dedicated to placing such refinements at the centre of its existence also shows. Morris looks genuinely happy to be ‘back in North’ on the Leeds leg of a short UK tour

Lucy Whittaker opened the night at the Belgrave Music Hall. Picture: David Hodgson

Lucy Whittaker opened the night at the Belgrave Music Hall. Picture: David Hodgson

supporting her as yet unreleased album, expected spring 2018, as a follow up to her 2015 debut release, Unguarded.

The new album looks like being a departure from the debut, which was more centred on the piano and allowed Morris to demonstrate her wide vocal range and confidence, to a more synth pop sound.

Whether that’s evolution or revolution remains to be seen but only a handful of the tracks in this set were from the debut that brought Morris to attention and saw it reach a Top Ten chart position.

Opener Morne Fortune is a more ethereal track, tending to belie the remainder of the set. Morris’ attire is more accustomed to gym wear, appropriate given the amount of bouncing and jumping around she’s got planned. Recent single Reborn sounds bigger live than the recorded version, with Morris clearly desperate to get out from behind the microphone stand and leave her band to create the sound whilst she lifts the song by covering most of the stage.

Athletico didn’t add a great deal however the trio of the title track to the new album Someone Out There, Waiting for the Rain and Skin all stood out. A big sound, Morris’ strong lyrics and vocals filling the Belgrave Music Hall. For You, Morris’ first ever song and penned in a Blackpool shed, perfectly demonstrated why Unguarded had been so well received, her musical talent and breathless enthusiasm in chatting to the crowd shining through.

Encores Push Me To My Limit and Do It brought the set to a climatic close, the first tune sounding almost Bjork like, the latter really should be a hit if there is any musical justice. Radio 1 have already put it on heavy rotation so it’s on its way. The hope must be that Rae Morris isn’t engulfed by the pop sensibilities of her emerging material and retains the opportunity to let her undoubted talent shine through, as when harnessed with her enthusiasm and happy demeanour, it’s an infectious combination.

Earlier in the set Celeste had delivered a high quality set, reminiscent of the style of Amy Winehouse and with a vocal strength to match. Her track Milk and Honey can be streamed and there are others in the offing, such as Coco Butter and Not For Me meaning that this is certainly an artist that should be watched. To achieve the quality of delivery that Celeste managed with only a guitar as backing was beguiling.

Similarly so for the evening opener Lucy Whittaker, from Leeds and seemingly genuinely moved by the warmth from the crowd. Whittaker’s Only One EP is also available and is a radio friendly pop offering.

Performing live Whittaker lets her impressive vocals stand out, something that comes across less on the record but enough for I’m Not Ever Coming Back Again to be a single of the week on Radio 1 and her first video Take Me Away to be released shortly.

Marika Hackman at The Wardrobe, Leeds. Picture: Gary Brightbart

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