November 5th is called Bonfire Night here in the UK. It is a pyrotechnical celebration of the capture, torture and eventual death of Guy Fawkes, who was one of several plotters who failed to assassinate King James I in 1605. The dubious evening usually involves standing in the cold watching things go bang, so instead of partaking in the overzealous burning of effigies, an evening in Manchester’s Albert Hall in the company of Corinne Bailey Rae seems a much more worthwhile and rewarding proposition.
Following numerous festival appearances this summer in much more comfortable temperatures no doubt, Jodie Abacus has the task of warming up the chilled crowd as they arrive on this sharp Manchester evening. Performing a selection of tracks from debut EP For Real Life and Not Pretend, it’s fair to say that he completely achieves this aim. Although not a genre I would normally gravitate towards, his souly R & B proves to be an uplifting and enjoyable experience and the crowd quickly warm to this most gracious and affable of performers. His perceptive songs appear to be informed by real experiences and observations about the world we live in and this is not something you can always say about a genre that can sometimes feel a bit shallow.
Corinne Bailey Rae still feels like a relatively new artist on the scene, so it may come as a surprise to realise that it’s actually been ten years since her debut record was released. The trials and tribulations of this period have been well-documented but this evening’s performance is a spirited reminder if it was needed that this Yorkshire lass still retains a captivating ability to craft remarkably warm and soulful songs and she delivers them tonight with an élan that bewitches the loyal audience.
The evening understandably focusses on latest album The Heart Speaks in Whispers and the sophisticated pop of Been to the Moon from this album gets proceedings under way. The six-year interlude between releases manifests itself on this album in its more joyful disposition compared to the understandably more introspective and rockier character of second album The Sea, but it is actually Paris Nights/New York Mornings from this album that provides one of the early highlights of the evening. Following a meandering rendition of Bob Marley’s Is This Love which unfortunately did not really resonate with me, Paris Nights is a rollicking joy, full of colour and character and this is immediately complimented by the gorgeous and uplifting Stop Where You Are which features initially fragile vocals that swell impressively during the lion-hearted chorus which almost overwhelms the passionate crowd.
Bailey Rae continues to craft emotional and seductive moments with Horse Print Dress and Do You Ever Think of Me, which may be more suited to a smoky New York jazz club rather than a Wesleyan chapel in Manchester, but the concert again achieves delightful highs as it heads towards its conclusion when the delicate tones of Put Your Records On are recognised by the partisan crowd. Automatically instilling a summery disposition on all and sundry despite the chill outside, the song is an absolute treat and is quickly followed by the buoyant The Skies Will Break which is full of sonic thrills to compliment the silky vocals which ooze confidence and class. Despite the fragility of encore Like a Star concluding the evening, it’s safe to say that on a traditional night of fireworks, Corinne Bailey Rae is a real firecracker!
Corinne Bailey Rae
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Review and Photos by Iain Fox | @IainFoxPhoto