Review: Rae Morris

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Opening up the night is Fryars, who is quite possibly the coolest man on the planet. Effortlessly charming, he gives off the air of a man performing a short set for his friends at the local, rather than opening a sell out Manchester gig. Sadly his songs don’t do his aura justice; they’re too aimless, too devoid of any real emotion and ultimately too dull. In this environment, where people are waiting impatiently for the main act and even the slightest whisper threatens to overpower the speakers, Fryars isn’t able to hold their attention with his music. His voice is lost amongst the calls for beers, and ultimately his performance is frustrating; on a different night with an immersed crowd, the energy may have brought new life into his songs. His finest point comes in the closing song Cool Like Me, which may as well be an anthem for Fryars. It’s a great song, upbeat and catchy and it’s true, I want to be cool like Fryars.

There is undoubtedly no better artist emerging on the U.K scene than Rae Morris; her emotive, powerful, voice matches her incredible song-writing talents – both of which defy her young age. Recognition for her talents has been quick; her debut album (Unguarded) reached number 9 in the U.K charts, radio stations and newspapers alike queued to declare Unguarded their album of the week, and a host of U.K indie artists have welcomed her onto their tours and into their recording studios.  It’s an exciting point in the career of Morris, but with the added attention comes pressure to live up to the admittedly low level acclaim. Could Morris hold her own in one of Manchester’s best known venues?

The answer is a resounding maybe. Morris has a unique talent in being able to deliver emotionally charged piano-based pieces just as well as she blasts out the choruses to the songs like Under the Shadows. This talent is an apparent requisite for British female singers searching for stardom; the success of people like Ellie Goulding and Emile Sande was built on this ability, and Morris easily has the voice to match both of them. But Morris is much more than a pretty voice; her strength lays in the perfectly crafted indie pop songs she lays bare in the Manchester Gorilla. Her weakest moments come when she restrains herself from taking advantage of the instruments at her disposal; her strongest moments come as her voice, keyboards and drums encapsulates the room, like in Do You Even Know? and Love Again. My personal highlight of the night came during her duet with Fryars and their track Cold.

A career built on extensive touring (beginning with open mic nights here in Lancaster), you’d imagine, would have left her with a natural stage presence. However, on this occasion she seems too small for the stage, overly humbled by the devoted crowd who sing along to the choruses and shout “Go on, Rae” in the interludes between the songs. Whereas Fryars felt like a guy playing in his local, at times Morris looked like she’d accidently stumbled onto the Wembley Arena stage. In the intervals between songs she seems too animated to string together an original thought and reverts to generic sound bites. During the songs in which she stands to sing, she resembles Bambi learning to walk on the nice: noticeably awkward. But no one looks more natural behind a keyboard than Morris; she moves with the song and it’s hard not to be blown away by her incredible voice.

I feel honoured to seen Morris at this point in her career; she truly has the potential to become one of the biggest female artists in the U.K.

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