Review: Home Is Where The Heart Is for Rae Morris

Blackpool can proudly boast several treasures, such as The Tower, the three piers and the wonderful Winter Gardens. We can now add to that list the incredible talent of Rae Morris. On delivering what can only be described as a mesmerising homecoming performance for Radio Lancashire’ BBC Introducing last Saturday evening, this fine young singer/songwriter will surely be a name on everyone’s lips nationwide very soon and rightly so.

I, along with my fellow altblackpool team member and photographer Richard Shirt, were among the very lucky few to have been given the opportunity to get up close and personal with a young star who is beginning to hit the big time after years of hard work gigging relentlessly. After working her way up from grass roots level, she is now being recognised as a world class artist. What makes it even more special is that Rae Morris is still as humble and grounded today as when she started out plying her trade on the open mic circuit, playing her songs to a handful of people in small bars and pubs.

In relative terms, after just returning from a lengthy tour with Bombay Bicycle Club playing large auditoriums, the Thornton Little Theatre is a small venue.  But this was different in the fact that Rae seemed to know most of the audience, which made the evening quite intimate and quite special. The event was made possible by the hard work and organisation of Radio Lancashire’s Sean McGinty, who has constantly carried a beacon for the Rae’s music since she first submitted her recordings to the BBC Introducing uploader a couple of years back.

“It seems weird playing in front of so many familiar faces!” quipped Rae, as she presented us with a truly brilliant performance, gracefully perched at the piano and playing to a crowd where you could hear a pin drop in the theatre. It takes someone with a gift and skill to grab an audience and keep them in the palm of your hand throughout the whole set. Rae Morris certainly has the ability to do that.

There was nothing extravagant about the stage arrangement, no fancy lighting effects, no projected images or dancers – just simply a girl and a piano. It was more than enough. Her voice presented us with everything we needed and each lyric was heartfelt and exquisitely delivered. It comes very natural to Rae Morris to be genuine on stage and on ending her opening number, with head bowed, she whispered, “Thank you,” with an element of shyness. It sums her up; brilliant but still very humble in character.

Exquisite performance
Exquisite performance

After being away from home for a good while working on her music and touring, you sensed that this gig had come as a welcome relief to Rae and was one that touched her, “I feel quite emotional,” she told the audience. It was a fitting statement and I’m sure the feeling was mutual. With her parents, family and friends eagerly watching on, they will have felt a sense of enormous pride.

Rae flawlessly worked her way through a wonderful set of songs, recorded and to be broadcast by Radio Lancashire’s BBC Introducing show at a later date. Such songs as Grow, Walls, From Above, Skin and her forthcoming release Do You Even Know, which she told us was performed for the first time without her band and sounded incredible in the wonderful acoustics of the compact theatre. But she saved the most touching song until last, with the beautiful For You, which she dedicated to her Nan. It was a fitting tribute and a lovely climax to a thoroughly entertaining evening. But it was obvious that she would have to return to the stage for an encore after bringing the house down! After the rapturous applause had finally died down, on her reappearance it was typical of Rae to ask the audience, “Are you sure?” Oh, of course we were.

She even showed her vulnerable side, by beginning the encore in the wrong key and told us, “I don’t play this live often!” before restarting and delivering a beautiful finale. Fantastic.

Ending the show by telling us that she ‘stalked’ Sean McGinty to play her music on the radio via her My Space and Facebook pages in the early days, it is obvious that he will be very pleased he listened to her appeal, as another local talent was discovered by the BBC Introducing opportunity.

Rae is the perfect example of what can be achieved if you have the talent and work extremely hard. But most of all believing in what you do and at the same time love doing it. She is also a perfect role model to other aspiring young musicians and I told her as much as I grabbed a few minutes chat with her after the show. Even then she looked quite shocked and surprised, but very typical in her reaction. She is and always will be grounded but more so, approachable and friendly. Rae Morris is a success story at a time when the area and its youngsters need a boost and some sign of hope for the future. She provides that in bucket loads.

Quirky - Jamie Hamilton
Quirky – Jamie Hamilton

Support for the evening was provided by two unique and incredible new artists. Jamie Hamilton, from Darwen, opened the proceedings with his quirky style of storytelling through song. Using expression in both his vocal and visual elements, he connected with the audience immediately. The acoustics of the theatre enhanced his sound further with his unique voice and sublime lyrics. I particularly liked the line, “The perfect swirl in my head was flawed in its design,” which shows that Jamie is a very clever young singer/songwriter. His new album Circles is now available through Sunbird Records and definitely worth checking out. Another gem of an artist to keep an eye on and another picked up and lauded by Sean McGinty on his BBC Introducing show.

Following on from Jamie was Cumbrian band Aquilo. I had listened to some stuff before attending the show. I was very impressed by their recorded work, but was knocked out by their live performance. Although having to revert to an acoustic set due to an unfortunate technical difficulty with a pre-programmed Mac, Tom Higham and Ben Fletcher blew me away with their gorgeous harmonies. The technical issue had no bearing at all on their performance.

Aqullo - Ethereal
Ethereal – Aquilo

The tones in their vocals were exquisite, both soulful and ethereal and again they had the crowd’s full attention. As the sound filled the theatre, you couldn’t help but be transfixed. The beautifully dreamy You There is a joy to behold and to hear it live is really something else. Their whole set was sensational and delivered impeccably. Look out for their new self-titled debut EP, which is out now and available from iTunes.

Both Richard and I were left thoroughly impressed. A very memorable evening indeed.


All images courtesy of The Extra Third Photography.

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    Blackpool based self-confessed music fanatic involved in the local music scene around the Fylde and particularly passionate about promoting and assisting new upcoming bands and artists breaking through.

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