Chances are, you’ve heard Rae Morris’s striking tones before, and you just don’t know it. Following the release of her debut album Unguarded, Morris has been seductively seeping into popular culture: a Boohoo advert there; a collab with Clean Bandit there; and a charity campaign to just round things off. With a nationwide tour currently ongoing, it’s pretty impossible to remain in ignorance much longer.
The crowd was sufficiently toasty thanks to the support of Dan Owen and Roo Panes. At one point, Owen was like one of the one-man marching bands that brighten up Northumberland Street on a Sunday afternoon as he combined his vocals and acoustic guitar with a harmonica headset. But unlike the entertainers that line the high street, this performance was more than the coppers at the bottom of your purse and really got the crowd going. Roo Panes followed and slowed the tempo right down – probably to make us focus more on looking at his face than bobbing up and down (he’s modelled for Burberry, don’cha know) – the result of which was everyone’s feet becoming glued to the alcopop stickiness leftover from Saturday night at the Academy. Not that we wanted to go anywhere anyway, his set was beautifully complemented by chamber-orchestral strings which projected shivers across the very compact (and unsurprisingly very sweaty) upstairs room.
And then for the main attraction. Headlining the o2 Academy 2, her first time there since supporting Bombay Bicycle Club in 2014, Morris on stage was split into two on Beyonce/Sasha Fierce levels. One second we had a magnificently powerful stage presence, the next we have a 22 year old lass from Blackpool in awe at us herself, asking if we’re sure it’s okay for her to do a few more songs in an encore.
During the set, no one would dare even breathe to interrupt what was unfolding in front of our eyes and in our eardrums: Morris has one of the most captivating vocals I’ve ever witnessed and really came into her own, particularly away from the sometimes overwhelming keyboard. Playful dramatic dancing reminiscent of everyone whose ever been in Powerhouse when Whitney comes on was interspersed with haunting moments of acapella in which the whole room seemed to stand still. This was particularly true in ‘This Time’ – a song which displays a lifetime’s worth of emotion and heartache in approximately 3 minutes 50 seconds.
Don’t be led to believe that we gig-goers left the Academy in tears however, re-assessing every single break up we’ve went through since we were 10. ‘Cold’, a collaboration with London-born art pop musician FrYars, led to a whole-crowd singalong and hand clapping. This might be partly because FrYars wasn’t actually there to sing his bits, but predominantly was because it’s just a belter of a tune.
With such a distinct voice that revamps the electropop trend of a few years ago, and an extremely successful debut album under her belt, Morris will soon be hitting her new hometown (she’s actually 1/8th Geordie, apparently) in a bigger and better venue to yet another sell-out show. Trust you me.
**Photo Credit: Shay Rowan