Blackpool based singer-songwriter Rae Morris took to the stage with gusto on Friday night. Propped upright behind a piano, she belted out celestial arrangements—unchallenging, but easy on the ears. Morris doesn’t exactly attract the liveliest of crowds; the atmosphere in Deaf was subdued, though it wasn’t helped by the fact that the room was heavily populated by snuggly couples, and was helped even less by support act Half Earth’s utter failure to warm up the crowd with a series of wailings that made me imagine Justin Vernon being trapped in a cupboard and desperately trying to get out. But after that ordeal was over and the audience were all able to breathe a collective sigh of relief, we were able to approach Rae Morris’ set with a new perspective and a new found appreciation for life outside of a Half Earth gig.
Morris has a striking presence, with her voluminous shock of frizzy hair and pale complexion when thrust in a spotlight (Kate Bush, anyone?), and a striking voice to back it up—husky and versatile, occasionally accenting notes with a playful hiccup. All charming qualities, but unfortunately the songs aren’t there to match, constantly operating on a two-dimensional slow/fast, quiet/loud, despair/relief basis, with not much in between. Her penchant for a stripped back piano section followed by a rush of strings and percussion is a ploy that has been made well and truly derelict by the X Factor. The M.O.R arrangements sadly could not hold the attention for long, but perhaps her recent collaboration with Ariel Rechtshaid, who has recently produced Vampire Weekend and Haim albums, is a sign that she’s ready to jazz things up and hopefully attract a more youthful crowd.