As fresh starts go, Someone Out There must be one of the most successful in recent years. Recorded during the heady early days of a new relationship, it is infectious in its joy and addictive in its pleasures. Largely ditching the piano-led ballads of her debut, Unguarded, it saw Rae Morris bounce onto the dance floor instead – and tonight was a perfect reflection of that new spirit. As her tour builds to a final sold-out show at Heaven, it was simply one of the happiest shows that Brighton has seen in a long time and it proved impossible not to get wrapped up in it.
First though, two supports from very different musical worlds but both excellent in their own ways. Saskia Maxwell, a singer-songwriter from Cornwall, showcased an exceptional set of slightly psychedelic-folk in the rich tradition of Pentangle and the like. With songs that address topics such as conversations with old oak trees and voice therapy, and a voice reminiscent of the greats like Linda Perhacs, this was a wonderfully dreamy start to the night. When she quickened the pace on tracks such as ‘The Director’ and the final foot-stomping ‘Shadow’, it showed a different side to Maxwell altogether, and her thought of not wanting to leave the stage was shared by many.
Following Maxwell was London rapper PAULi. A barely contained ball of energy and charisma, he spent as much time in the early part of his set in the photopit, singing directly into the faces of the front row. Constantly moving between setting up the beats and breaking into moves at the mic stand, PAULi had a smoothness both of voice and of body. A request for the crowd to do a simple dance move led to the whole room doing a two-step that couldn’t have been more perfectly choreographed if he had tried. His brand of slightly alternative, pulsing hip-hop culminated in a superb ‘I Don’t Care’ – dedicated to someone at the front “Living her best life” – PAULi was here, there and everywhere. As a warm-up and a way of introducing irresistible electricity into a night, it was unsurpassed.
There was something magical about Rae Morris’ introduction tonight. Opening, as on the album, with the sparse palate-cleanser of ‘Push Me To My Limit’ before running straight into ‘Reborn’, her voice was peerless – crystal clear, and containing an ethereal quality. Up close, that proximity to Björk on the opening tracks was even more tightly shown. Arms sweeping up over her head, she was so captivating at the front of the stage that the presence of a band behind her almost went unnoticed initially, though they came to the fore throughout. It was distinctly a night based on Someone Out There, with that album played in full alongside only a handful from her debut. The new attitude and propensity for the dance floor was reflected simply, Morris asking, “So, are we ready to dance now?” after the piano-led ‘Physical Form’. Sounding more like an expectation rather than a request, the offer was gratefully accepted by all who were present.
What followed was an exceptionally well-choreographed, polished yet grounded pop show. ‘Do It’ saw Morris bouncing like a Tigger at the front of the stage, while ‘Cold’ saw her facing backing singer and drummer Gio across the stage. Every piece of emotion was pulled from ‘Wait For The Rain’, the sound of rainfall balanced with flashes of light to paint an evocative picture. The heart-melting ‘Dancing With Character’ saw her dancing in a style worthy of her home-town’s iconic Blackpool Tower Ballroom, before ‘Dip My Toe’ saw dazzling blue lights flickering across the room. In short, every moment landed, as a night of pop music at its absolute best played out before us. These tunes were already great, but the live experience heightened them – this was no mere repeat of a recorded version, rather, it lifted and brought them to life through her sheer force of personality.
‘Atletico (The Only One)’ was the final cherry on top of a perfect set, the crowd reacting wildly at the quintessential three-and-a-half-minute pop song. By now, it seemed as if Morris was bouncing everywhere rather than walking – it is hard to remember an artist who seemed so genuinely delighted to be performing and receiving this response, and it was truly wonderful to see. During a short but sweet encore, the night was wrapped up perfectly by the title track of Someone Out There. Like a warm hug sending the enraptured crowd into the cold night with smiles as wide as Morris’ own, perfectly summing up the heart and soul of an evening of peerless pop music.