Shot! Rae Morris in Brighton
With her new found stage confidence, the Blackpool songstress was high on emotion, but somewhat let down by a lack of visual production
Originally from Blackpool and now living in North London, Rae Morris clearly has a penchant for Brighton. She’s played here many times since making her debut at The Great Escape back in 2012. I chanced upon that gig at the Queens Hotel and since then have seen her numerous times and had the pleasure of twice interviewing her.
Being so invested in an artist means you’re rooting for their success, it also means you get to experience their journey and how they’ve evolved as an artist and as a performer.
When I first saw Rae she was a mass of curls hidden behind her keyboard. Back then, she was simply a shy solo performer and had no band. The songs that ended up on her 2015 debut album may have been gentle piano tunes, but there was something so special about her voice that you instinctively knew she was going to make it. The only question was how far could she go and how long would it take?
I was also at Komedia when she found the confidence to leave the piano and stand up and sing a few numbers. It was a big moment for her as a performer. Fast forward to 2018 and with her just-released sophomore album under her belt, Rae has evolved both as a songwriter and as a performer. She’s subtly changed up her look. She now wears her hair up and her latest videos have featured her sporting bold, eye-catching make-up. Even her wardrobe has become more theatrical. What’s more, she’s putting herself about in ways she’s never done before: TV interviews, appearances on Sports Relief and even performing with Animal from the Muppets! And this summer she’s playing a one-day festival in north London organised by the Labour Party.
Given that, I was somewhat surprised she was back at Concorde 2. I would’ve thought the Dome would have better suited her trajectory. Perhaps she’ll play there next time. In the event, Concorde 2 wasn’t quite sold out, something else that surprised me.
With two supports, there was quite a wait before Rae took the stage. It helped that Pauli and Saskia Maxwell were both a cut above the usual fare. Between Pauli finishing and Rae coming on we also had to endure some of the worst music I’ve heard at a gig for a while and something I’ve never heard at one ever: audio ads.
Having seen how Rae had really stepped things up visually in promoting her new album, it was disappointing that this wasn’t carried through to her show. Indeed, there was no production at all, which was puzzling as Rae is such an artistic person. Yet, there was no backdrop, no special lighting and no staging. Instead, we just got Rae, three musicians and a backing singer. But we did get Rae starting the show standing at the front of the stage — the first time I’ve ever seen her do that.
From the get go, you could tell this was a much more confident performer. Apparently, ahead of this tour, she saw a choreographer to help her move more naturally on stage. Vocally, there was never any doubt about her ability, she has a wonderful distinctive voice. Indeed, The Guardian recently said “It’s hard to think of another pop singer like her right now. Tonally, she recalls Björk, and her delivery is elegantly skittish, but commanding, too.”
Those ethereal vocals are given greater scope on the new record, the majority of which were co-written and produced by Rae’s long-term collaborator and now newly-proclaimed boyfriend, Ben Garratt aka Fryars. She performed the entire album, kicking the show off with its two opening tracks: the emotion-charged Push Me To My Limit (her most Kate Bush-sounding vocal to date) and the hypnotically electropop Reborn. In many ways, both titles could describe Rae’s new found confidence. There she was, so much more expressive, ‘performing’ her songs rather than just playing them.
Personally, I wished she had gone even further. The edgier black PVC aesthetic she portrayed on the new album cover, would have better matched the change in musical style than the polka dot number she wore.
Knowing how huge a fan she is of Kate Bush, I can only wonder how much better the show could have been with some visual accompaniment. Next time she’s in Brighton, I really hope she’ll step it up even more and take her stagecraft to the next level.
Footnote: Two days later, Rae played Heaven in London. Having seen shots from that gig, it confirmed that her Brighton audience were shortchanged. At Heaven, her show featured dramatic red and blue neon stage lighting, something that was missing altogether at Concorde 2.
Setlist: Push Me To My Limit | Reborn | Morne Fortuné | Physical Form | Do It | Cold | Wait For The Rain | Love Again | Dancing With Character | Dip My Toe | Under The Shadows | Rose Garden | Atletico || Lower The Tone | Don’t Go | Someone Out There
“To me, shooting live music is all about capturing the personality of the performer and the emotion of their performance. And then creating an iconic image.”
Behind the image: All these images were shot with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and the 75 1.8 lens and the camera’s built-in digital zoom using available light only. I was only able to shoot the first three songs from the pit. Having shot Rae many times before, I was keen to get some different portraits of her this time. And I didn’t just want them to be different to mine, I wanted them to be different from all the other photographers shooting her. Concorde 2’s already small pit was crowded both with photographers and gear so I wasn’t able to move from my starting position to the right of the stage. Given that the lighting wasn’t as good as I’d hoped it would be, I’m pretty pleased with some of the shots I came away with. Shot in Brighton on 25 March 2018.
Rae Morris’ latest album Someone Out There is out now
Follow Rae on Twitter at @raemorrismusic
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