The Verse’s Madeleine Corke reviews the Put Your Records On singer at her show at Brighton’s Dome on the 3rd November.
Corinne is absolutely calm. She sways serenely at the front and centre of the stage, eyes closed. You can tell that she knows what she’s doing. What follows is a pitch perfect, sweet as honey, soulful performance.
When I arrived at the Brighton Dome I had no idea what to expect from the venue, but I had high expectations of Rae, whose music I have loved since her first album came out in 2006. I was very surprised to find that Rae was to be performing in a concert hall, and that I had been assigned a seat number. I was also relatively surprised by the mature age demographic that Rae’s music seems to attract. Waiting in the foyer for the show to begin I felt young and out of place, the majority of the audience seemed to be middle aged and over. I found it strange that Rae’s beautiful soul hadn’t attracted more people in their late teens and early twenties. Perhaps this audience represents the maturity and sophistication of Corinne’s new album, The Heart Speaks in Whispers.
Once inside the theatre I felt my excitement mounting, I was going to see Rae, in the flesh. The crowd, who were enthusiastic throughout the performance, erupted in their first cheer as the band came smiling onto the stage. The semicircle of men sit down at their instruments and play. The overture has begun. One of the musicians begins to speak over the music, announcing Rae in that old jazz/soul style, and at the sound of her name she appears. She is wearing a green velvet jumpsuit, silver boots and no jewellery. She looks amazing.
Rae begins with I’ve Been To The Moon, a song from her newest album. I am struck by the purity and sweetness of her voice, coupled with the almost complete perfection of her performance. She never seems to falter or miss a beat. Whereas some artists sound very different live when compared to their recorded tracks, Rae sounds just as good, if not better, as she adds extra tricks, runs, and long held notes that showcase her musical range, as well as the power of her voice. There is also an occasional lovely huskiness to her voice that is not picked up on her records.
Impossible to ignore are her constant arm movements. I can tell why her arms are so lean and toned as throughout the performance they move in graceful waves and circles, only resting for a moment when occupied with playing the guitar. I couldn’t help thinking of Rae’s song from her first album, Like A Butterfly. Rae certainly did look like a beautiful butterfly trying to fly away. At times these constant movements did get slightly too theatrical for my liking, for example when she put her hands to her heart and twisted her curls around her fingers in overly sweet way. However her smile was genuine and warm, and the positivity that it generated spread through the crowd like wildfire.
The performance continued. The volume of the music filled the space, the band made a smooth and rich sound that perfectly complimented Rae’s voice. The use of triangles in some of the songs added a sugary magic to the pop soul that was being played so well. Rae played a mix of songs from her three albums, mainly from her third, and also quite a few from her first. When she played, Used To Feel Like Heaven, from her first album I was transported back to my early teens, dancing around the kitchen on lazy summer evenings. The live version of this song was made even better by an added electric guitar solo, in which the musician seemed to make the guitar cry in a passionate and soulful outburst. Rae stood and watched, reverently. The highlight of possibly the whole evening for me was when the band stopped playing, and in the silence Rae sung another verse, picking a beautiful pattern on her acoustic guitar.
A further highlight of the two hour performance was Green Aphrodisiac, which was sensual, dreamy and appropriately lit with green lights. In the feast of sounds that followed the intro to the song I really was, to quote Rae, ’lost her wonderland’. I felt that she really came into her own when performing her new material, she was more excited to do it.
Rae said in a break between songs, ‘We have to celebrate the now’, and not get, ‘caught up in the idea that one day things will be perfect’, something she admitted to do often herself. This comment and insight into the human condition made me like Rae even more. I think her songs have the power to remind us to do just that.
Although I would have preferred the atmosphere and feel of a standing gig, and I think that some of the songs were dragged on a bit too long, overall I enjoyed Rae and her incredibly talented bands’ sound. The crowd were able to relax, safe in the hands of these slick and professional artists. The evening was indeed calm and positive, just like the soul princess herself, Corinne Bailey Rae.