Every now and again, you come away from a gig and think “WOW”. I’m not one for hyperbole but Tom Odell’s outing at Rescue Rooms was seriously staggering. Not to mention his stunning support act. Fresh from his Brits success where he scooped the illustrious Critics choice whose alumni comprises of the likes of Adele and Florence, Odell blew Rescue Rooms to a million little pieces.
Similarly fresh faced is Blackpool’s loveable bundle of nerves Rae Morris. Chatting before the gig, Rae was all smiles and excited as a child on Christmas Eve.
“I started doing my piano grades proper when I was about 6. I didn’t enjoy it, I wasn’t one of those kids that loved practising, I hated it until I was about 15 and I started realising I could do different things with it. Piano was never a difficult thing, it was natural and always present but I didn’t start singing with any real purpose until I wrote my first song when I was 17.”
Incredibly, that first song was only three years ago, and since then Rae has grown by the gig and by the track, had a song commissioned for channel 4 hit show Skins and featured on the trailer for BBC’s Call The Midwife. Rae believes that age is but a number, and talks of always feeling much older than she is; “I’ve been gigging a lot recently and that’s been amazing for me as I’m just realising it’s what I enjoy doing. I always have felt a lot older inside and I always felt like I was looking for something else and something further than what I was doing and who I was with and I’ve still never found that. I just don’t want to waste time and am very conscious of the fact that 20 is actually quite old now, I want to achieve something; it’s funny, isn’t it, age!”
Morris’ music is profound and reflective, a lyrical photograph of a particular moment, and her song-writing transcends her tender years; “I guess all of my songs are mostly just about emotions at the moment, and though I haven’t had many experiences, I have had feelings, and where there’s feelings, I guess there’s always a song.” Rae tells me about the current tour and explains her love for being on tour, “I feel so at home being on tour, being in the studio it’s more of a mental challenge. I definitely feel that over the past year I’ve seen things and had so many feelings that I think I’m finally starting to deal with them and coming to terms with it all where before I was almost shell shocked by the whole experience. I went on tour with Fink across Europe and I’ve never really travelled, I was frustrated that I’ve been as far away as to Australia but never to Italy, and waking up in a different city every day taught me that this is what I want to do forever”.
Completely stripped back and fronted by a red electronic piano, Rae took the stage to a full house at Rescue Rooms and looked totally awestruck by the scale of the crowd and she didn’t disappoint. Her charm that came across in interview transfers into her live show. Though just 20, Rae’s music transcends her youth; her lyrics of love, loss and longing lift her away from all around her leaving everybody absolutely transfixed. With a shroud of curled brown hair and an impossibly pretty face, Morris’ delicate persona is endearing and between songs her timidness is for all to see.
The quiet hush of the packed out venue speaks volumes of Rae’s performance; her vocals range from a soft whisper and elevate into immense strength and dizzying highs. Tumbling timidly from track to track, Morris intertwines upbeat ditties with knowing lyrics and melancholic piano with piercing vocals. Her all too short set was flawless, there wasn’t a note missed or a consonant unpronounced and is a support slot that will live long in the memory.
From one young bright spark into another, Tom Odell and co enter stage left to The Faces classic ‘Stay With Me’. The anticipating onlookers are a mixed bunch to say the least, from the 14 year old fangirls to the middle aged music connoisseurs. Bouncing onto his piano stool clutching a bottle of Laphroaig, Odell has the look of a young Kurt Cobain which contrasts against his polite Chichester charm. Backed by a drummer, guitarist and bassist, the group are tight but Odell stands out like a sore thumb, with the piano enthuse of a Chris Martin/Elton John Hybrid and soothing echoing vocals. For all his eccentric energy, Odell has the songs to back him up, ‘Can’t Pretend’ is dropped into the set very early on, a track that showcases Odell at both ends of the spectrum, from his calm fragility to stool smashing bombast. Then, we are treated to 5 minutes of live music magic as Tom introduces Rae Morris back onto the stage and the pair perform Morris’ heartbreaking track ‘Grow’. It is wholly heartfelt and a moment where two of Britain’s finest young musicians crashed into one another and produced aural bliss. There is a moment here where the two look at each other and just smile, a beautiful second of knowing, and of sheer love for their art form.
His blonde framing bob cut whips back and forth to the raucous ‘Sirens’. Between tracks from his forthcoming album Long Way Down, Odell plants in a bluesy cover of the Stones’ ‘Honky Tonk Women’ which though lost on some teens down the front, has many of the older and more acquainted faces singing loudly along.
Odell infrequently swaps his trust piano for a guitar and looks entirely uncomfortable, but it is these moments of absolute awkwardness that highlight Odell’s honest charm, and set and notion of cockiness well to one side. ‘Another Love’ is firmly a fan favourite and sees the first real sing along of the evening and again is an idyllic blend of the delicate and the dramatic.
Odell and his beaming back up leave and he sweat drips from his brow and the crowd lap up every last note as he hammers down on his wobbling piano. It was the consummate professional performance from one so young and so new to bigger stages and as I leave I wonder quite how far Odell can go, and at this rate, there aren’t many better. He returns later in this year stepping even further up into what will be a sold out Rock City and you can be sure, he won’t be playing venues smaller than Rescue Rooms again.
P.S. Dear Rae, if you’re reading, I want to be your friend, thanks.