Rae Morris @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire
It’s been a great year for Blackpool-native and sometimes Bombay Bicycle Club collaborator Rachel Anne “Rae” Morris. Following the release of her debut album Unguarded in January, which peaked at #9 in the UK album chart, she hit the road for a full UK headline tour of smaller venues before hitting up the summer festival circuit including stops at Field Day, Glastonbury, T In The Park and Bestival. She even had time to contribute to sister-in-law Lucy Rose’s sophomore album Work It Out.
Now she’s back, touring larger UK venues and stopped in at West London’s Shepherd’s Bush Empire, a true right-of-passage for any up and coming artist. Taking up position behind her trusty Nord Stage 2 keyboard and starting with 2012 EP track Grow, the mood was set for the evening with bass, drums and additional keyboards set up on individual risers surrounding Morris accompanied by a string quartet sitting high behind a translucent screen at the rear.
The West London Venue plunged into quiet as a muted clockwork introduction to the Unguarded opener, Skin, crept up to the opening verse crescendo and Morris & co continued to weave their way effortlessly through the 14-song set. After her debut album’s title track, the softly-spoken 23-year-old addressed her audience: “My name’s Rae, so good to meet you all.” Looking out across the famous West London theatre venue she proclaimed: “This is insane!”
“I made this song five years ago in very small town called Blackpool” she continued to further cheers. “Now I’m here, it’s crazy! The song is called ‘For You’.”
“I’d like to welcome a very special guest onto the stage” Morris said as collaborator, art-pop musician frYars appeared at the rear of the stage, dressed in a bright red jacket but still shrouded in shadow for album track Cold, which he contributed to, the mellow dance tune encouraging a gentle bop in the crowd as bright white Spot lights flitting between band members on stage.
Bringing the attention to breast cancer awareness charity CoppaFeel!, the Sandgrownian introduced slow and mellow keyboard-driven Don’t Go: “This next song is very significant and important, I wrote it many years ago. I created a music video with CoppaFeel!” Bringing a little humour to a very serious concern, she added “If you have any spare time, check your boobs!”
“This next song, I have this strange feeling before playing it. I’ve played this venue four times before supporting other people. I wrote this when I was starting out and it reminds me of then, it’s called Do You Even Know”. The synth-driven, electronic sound being brought to life with the live electronic drumming mixing seamlessly with traditional, bringing the track to life.
The Blackpool-native stepped out from behind her keyboard for the first time to a roomful of cheers as the main set neared its end for single Under The Shadows.
The placement of two microphone stands at the front of the West London stage indicated something special was about to happen, and as Morris returned for her encore she introduced collaborator and Bombay Bicycle Club frontman Jack Steadman: “I’d like to invite someone very, very special to the stage.” The two then broke into Luna from Bombay Bicycle Club’s 2014 album So Long, See You Tomorrow on which Morris contributed vocals.
The evening ended with bright lights illuminating the returning band and Morris cutely fumbling her final words to the audience “The speaking part of this whole thing has never been my strong point, this has been dream of mine for so long so thanks for making it happen” before album track Love Again closed out the night.
As sombre as much of Morris’ material may be, it’s clear to see the rising star in this most talented singer-songwriter. And while it’s always a tough ask to bring a keyboard-lead to the forefront, the production of the show meant that it was hardly noticed that Morris wasn’t jumping about the stage or that the only guitar in sight was a bass, which itself was often exchanged for an upright double bass.
Rae Morris continues her UK tour with stops at Brighton’s Concorde 2 and the Academy in Bristol before closing out the run of shows at Southampton’s Engine Rooms on October 15th
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Review & Photography by Kalpesh Patel. Rae Morris @ Shepherd’s Bush Empire 08/10/2015
Kalpesh has his own great site here:https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate/