The guts of The Wardrobe are filling up nicely for tonight’s show. This evening sees Rae Morris come to Leeds as she continues her first headline tour and progression towards becoming a household name. Following the release of her debut album, ‘Unguarded’, the twenty two year old Blackpudlian (look it up, it’s a word) has taken to the road to treat our nation to her impressive vocals and haunting melodies – but first, the support.
If you were attempting to describe the concept of ‘modern-day cool’, the way the kids are doing it (or desperately trying to do it at least), to the elderly, a Mongolian nomad or extra-terrestrial you’d probably be as well to just show them Fryars.
You can tell he is at the cutting edge of cool because he is wearing a woolly hat, a woolly hat in a very warm basement. His arrival is unannounced and casual which seems to be his way through and through. When the music gets going it is an extension of his too-cool-for-school persona; all electric dreamscape synths and high register vocals with stripped back drums and a colourful sprinkling of guitar, which recalls a wealth of indie movie soundtracks. His vocals are pushed through some subtle gadgetry that only serves to add to the sound of the city he seems to have so instinctively captured. In between songs he wins the crowd over quickly with comfortable, laid back gags and chat, even bringing to our attention that if you look closely you can catch a glimpse of the back stage staff nipping for a wee through a break in the curtain at the back of the stage.
What feels like only a few moments later (it’s actually several songs later) and almost as unannounced as his arrival, he departs with absolutely no ceremony at all – he just finishes his last song, gets up and goes. Simple, effective and, yes, cool.
Rae Morris is the last member of her band to take the stage in front of the now capacity crowd, most of which have the air of people who have probably had her album playing on repeat for the entirety of the nine days since it’s release.
Straight from the off that big voice heard on the album is there, in the room with us, engulfing everything. From what is essentially just a small human being emanates a mystical, swelling sound full of depth and control which can be given as much oomph or frailty as the song requires, whenever it requires it. The on stage relationship between Morris and her drummer, Daisy Palmer, quickly becomes a focal point. The harmonies she provides elevate the sound to exceptional levels and result in some of the night’s most goosebumpy musical moments – the first of which is delivered just two songs in with the title track of the album, ‘Unguarded’.
Following one big track with another, Morris coaxes cheers from her audience with ‘Closer’. The dancier feel inviting people to move a bit more – Morris herself is practically dancing at her keyboard, perma-grin beaming out into the darkest recesses of the room. In fact the whole performance is one of sheer enjoyment and excitement – the songs translate well from the album to the stage and the levels of enthusiasm displayed by her musicians are high. On top of it all though, and reigning supreme, is Morris’s voice. It floods the air and seems to hit every note without ever really having to be pushed.
There are some dips; the reintroduction of Fryars to duet on ‘Cold’ (a track that features both his vocal and production talents) causes a slight bump in the road – probably because of the marked difference in vocal strength and tone which becomes pretty stark when the pair are on stage together. He’s on his way again before the final notes of the song land though and the focus is back on Morris for ‘Don’t Go’; claiming the ‘Most-Goosebumps-per-square-inch Award’ with the four lines of harmonies right at the end which burst out of the front-woman and drummer in a way so ear-boggling and so heart-wrenching that I could’ve gone for a sit down right there and then and called it a night.
The show continues however, and we are reminded of her association with Grammy hopefuls Clean Bandit with a rendition of ‘Up Again’, the song she recorded with the band last year before ‘Love Again’ is eventually announced as the “last song”. The warm cries for more are rewarded with Morris’s return and as the set does finally come to a close with ‘Under the Shadows’ it is evident that she is among friends – a room full of people connecting with a performer who has a wealth natural talent and truly loves sharing that wealth.