Gracious, Humble and Talented: Rae Morris at the Wedgewood Rooms

Daniel Malice enjoys feeling a little out of place as he heads along to review Rae Morris at the Wedgewood Rooms.

It’s 8 o’clock pm, 11th February 2015. I’m on my way to the Wedgewood Rooms to see Rae Morris with her Special Guest, Fryars.

The last live music I saw was McFly in 2012. I was a hairy 20 something in a sea of preteen girls whose mums and dads were picking them up after the show.

Like that last gig, the crowd tonight is mostly made up of young women. Not so young that I felt like I should be on some register though. Beards are clearly welcome in here too.

The gig is sold out. I’ve insisted on being there before the doors open so it takes a while for the venue to fill. It’s my first time in the Wedgewood Rooms, quite an intimate venue; you can see from one end of it to the other even when it’s full.

Even before she appears, Rae Morris obviously attracts an eclectic crowd. The age range must be between 17 and 55 years. I’m surrounded by a broad age demographic of men and women dressed as neo-hippies and folk-fan throwbacks. There must be a lot of art students here, I think to myself.

It’s not strictly my spiritual home, but I don’t feel like I’m transgressing, either; the crowd feels friendly. Despite their warmth, my lack of visual similarity to the people around me makes me a little paranoid, a little self-conscious. Looking at posters of previous acts plastered on the walls during a break to hydrate – Hadouken, The Ordinary Boys, Kate Nash – I realise this is what I should have expected. No aged guitar-destroying paperclip-clad geezers in here.

I’m amongst friends, I think, Just don’t any of you talk to me lest I’m exposed as a musical fraud.

I feel as though one of the crowd are about to come up to me and ask me to name my favourite Beck song. I couldn’t name one if my life depended on it.

What’s worse – and surely a breach of the first rule of Gig Club – I didn’t commit the entirety of Rae Morris’ debut album to memory before the show. I’m only familiar with a few hooks.

That won’t matter, I think. Rae Morris is a new artist, an emerging artist by contemporary parlance. Surely no one will know her entire back catalogue yet.

I mean, how do folk even get wind of music now that Top of the Pops is gone? Nobody I told about the gig had even heard of her.

“Ray Morris?” they said. “What does he sing then?”

The support comes on at 8.45 and the room is buzzing, ready. If you don’t know Fryars, imagine an Aqualung-esque falsetto singer in a bomber jacket. Sonically his tunes sound like Phoenix; a band I’m just about aware of. Very entertaining.

By the time Rae Morris appears, the crowd are well and truly warm. Fryars has done his job.

My first thought when she walks on stage is that Rae is exactly who you’d imagine if Princess Merrida from Disney’s Brave was made a real woman. You couldn’t tame her wild russet locks with shock treatment, and it looks like someone just tried.

Rae herself is gracious and humble and the audience, myself included, love her for it. There’s something quite uplifting about a performer this charming with her fans, no matter how new they are.

She opened with Skin, played the popular Cold in the middle and closed with Love Again. Usually I’m not a fan of artists playing an entire album at live shows but since Miss Rae only has one to choose from, that also happens to be fantastic, I’ll forgive her.

Unlike me, the rest of the crowd seems to know every word. I distract myself from my ignorance by concentrating on the fact that this is the first gig I’ve ever been to where there was a double bass on stage.

The show wasn’t as raucous as I thought it might be, but then perhaps I need to consider what I’m comparing it to. Having only seen bands like Motörhead, Anti-Nowhere League and Rise Against, I hadn’t really known in advance what to expect.

The vibe at the Wedge tonight is really chilled, the crowd gently swaying throughout. As we all turn towards the evening’s end, I embrace the novelty of not leaving a show a sweaty wreck.

After enthusiastic roaring from the crowd, Rae comes back onstage for an encore, asking “Are you sure this is okay?” I know I’m not alone in finding this endearing.

She ends the night with the brilliant Under The Shadows. I even know some of the words.

Despite waving my imaginary press pass around impressively, I don’t manage to get a word with Rae herself at the end of the show. Instead I chat to Grace and Rhiannon from Southampton. I ask how they heard of Rae as I’ve only heard her once on Radio 1. Grace and Rhiannon, both 17, told me that they saw Rae when she supported Bombay Bicycle Club at Portsmouth Guildhall. Grace is the real fan, Rhiannon came because her friend did. They’ve both enjoyed the gig, they tell me happily. I say goodbye to them and head into the crowd swimming towards the exit.

No parents frown at me on the way out, probably because they were all in there with me tonight.

Unguarded was released on 26th January and is an impressive debut sure to send Miss Morris into orbit. If you don’t have a copy, either digital or physical, sort your life out and get one.

 Photography by Sarah Cheverton.