Words by Jay Airey / Pics by Lucy Heath
Entry to The Institute was easy; name on the door, two press tickets and a pleasant ‘have a good evening’ from security as we make our way upstairs to The Temple room. Life isn’t always so simple.
I immediately spot Cannon Street sitting at a table, and excitedly learn they are here as support. I worked with the pair at the Moseley Folk Festival in 2011, as a steward, and my ‘+1’ had seen them perform at the 2013 event. Both on stage and off they are brilliant, but their vocal harmonies and connection whilst performing is and are beautiful.
From a rather muted applause after their opener, at the end of a five song set the terrific twosome reached enthusing acclaim. Matt Sheehan follows as Rae Morris’s main support; classic man-with-guitar, singing strong with a good range and playing with aplomb.
The Temple is the smaller of The Institute’s rooms and can create a pleasant and intimate environment; the low stage, coupled with Rae Morris‘s decision to sit on a low stool (presenting herself at audience head-height) helps to maintain this ambiance tonight.
Rae Morris’s first song produces an attractive echo between her lead voice and the voice of the drummer – almost as if her line is being sung back a few moments later. It’s an impressive technique and one that makes her opening track a ‘stand-out’ moment for me. Diminutive and a little shy, Morris’s voice carries her as a powerful and stronger force than she might first appear.
Rae Morris’s band – a drummer, keyboard player (synthesizer heavily in play and an excellent accompaniment) and guitarist (playing guitar, bass & double bass) sing well together; some excellent harmonies, with the guitarist providing superb support to the lower tones of the keyboards.
Smiles are exchanged between the two, bringing a harmony that emits a sense of the band, in its entirety, having fun. Morris too throws an indirect gaze and regular smiles back out at the crowd, helping The Institute‘s smaller room warm to what’s happening on stage.
‘Way Back When’, the track that first brought Rae Morris onto Birmingham Review’s radar, brings an edgy and emotional feel early in the set – also an excellent showcase of Morris’s talent for whistling.
Throughout her set Rae Morris’s voice provides a varied range, often betraying the soft and breathy characteristics her speaking voice carries. When engaging the audience, between tracks, Morris is softly spoken – before the strength and emotion of her vocals delivers sophistication arguably beyond her years. There is also an occasional inflection which evokes a fleeting similarity (to me) to Edie Brickell.
But what is missing for me is the interaction between Rae Morris and her band, who are instrumental (excuse the pun) to her performance. Rae Morris is an accomplished pianist with a sophisticated singing voice, but when performing alone can miss a certain distinction between songs.
Each individual band member is worthy of a mention tonight, and I especially feel drummer’s contribution is unmissable – who does get singled out for applause as Morris leaves the stage.
But perhaps life on the road, with a band in tow (Rae Morris is no stranger to live solo performances), requires some getting to know you time. After all tonight is only gig two on the first of Rae Morris’s headline tour. And as I say, life isn’t always so simple.
For more on Rae Morris, visit http://www.raemorris.co.uk
For further listings from The Institute, visit http://mamacolive.com/theinstitute/listings