Call it the Radio 1 effect. An act is championed, and within months they’re selling out rather large venues in the nation’s capital. Of course, this means they’re attracting a mixed crowd of surly adolescents who seem slightly more content in conversing than concentrating.
Not that it matters much for a voice like Rae Morris. She shuffles to her piano with a face-to-curls ratio that could match both Melua and Lorde, attacking Skin with gusto. It’s a solid start, and a reinforcement of something we’re all familiar with by now: Morris has a voice so massive and robust that it’s enough to overpower the frequent waft of Dettol in the Brixton Electric, and is most likely still echoing in the venue as we type.
Strangely, the voice is actually the problem tonight. It takes centre-stage and rings at the highest registers; whereas a lot of Morris’s excellent Unguarded displayed a healthier account of light and shade, tonight that vocal bulldozes everything around it. Take songs like This Time and Don’t Go, for example. On record, they’re fragile and personal piano-driven numbers that could reduce us to rubble, but on this occasion they’re overwhelmed to the point that the instruments may as well not be there.
On the flip side, the songs that get Morris off her seat are the ones that make the most impact tonight, even if they didn’t on the album. Do You Even Know? bursts with 90s pop energy, and Morne Fortune is perfectly judged – unlike the Fryars duet Cold, which her compatriot phones in as if watching a karaoke machine, despite delivering a sturdy support set.
Still, there’s a lot to admire in seeing this set live, and certainly a lot more to expect from Rae Morris in future (not least in the repartee stakes). Until then, we feel the need to coin a term: rae-straint (noun), the realisation for a singer-songwriter that less can be a whole lot more. Let’s hope Morris applies some next time round.