The opening chimes to Skin, the first song of the night, hushed the audience. Yet, it was Rae Morris’ stunning voice that drew everyone into silence from the first note. For particularly sorrowful songs, including Don’t Go and Grow, the audience remained deadly silent. That’s not to say that Morris lacked crowd reaction, rather that everyone was shocked into silence at her ability. Although I expected Rae Morris to perform well live, I was certainly taken aback. Not only was she note-perfect, but it drew attention to just how much the studio confines Morris.
Tracks like Closer, Love Again, and Under The Shadows felt saturated with Morris’ soul, bringing the songs new meanings. Morris appeared a comfortable performer, holding stage presence despite having relatively little experience. Even when seated and playing keyboard, Morris maintained the illusion that she was dancing, giving her performance more energy and power.
As Unguarded, Rae Morris’ debut album, was only released a matter of weeks ago, there was plenty of opportunity for Morris to perform new tracks. In fact, every song from Unguarded was played, in addition to some older tracks from Morris’ EPs. The set list was divided into songs that Rae sat for, and the ones in which she stood. When standing, Morris brought energy into the crowd. However, Rae Morris’ singer-songwriter gone electric-pop genre is not designed to build mosh pits. A gentle swaying and some clapping along was all that was necessary, and it was fitting.
The support from Fryars suited the atmosphere of the show, as his style is similar to Morris’, yet at the same time, very unique. Despite Fryars’ nervousness on stage, he performed well and gained definite crowd support by including a broad set list, covering slower tracks such as On Your Own, as well as upbeat songs like The Power. Final song, Cool Like Me, was received particularly well, and successfully stimulated audience interaction in preparation for Morris. He claimed Morris had asked him “to get the boat rocking” and although the crowd involvement was not as dramatic as such, the crowd was certainly prepared.
The intimate setting of Thekla was built upon by Fryars’ gift of a rose for Rae, and the flowers that were thrown into the crowd by Rae and her band. I’m a firm believer that a barrier between an audience and a stage can rid a gig of its intimacy and cause the artist to appear detached. Thankfully, Thekla lacks such a barrier and a few members of the audience even gave Rae Valentine’s cards.
Travelling to Bristol can be a bit of a pain, but I would advise anyone to make the trip for Rae Morris. In her case, she performs better live than in the studio. The night was so pleasantly surprising that I found myself listening to every Rae Morris song on my iPod on the journey home. I can safely say that at 5 am, when I finally got back to Exeter, it was still worth it.