Corinne Bailey Rae, Queen's Hall, Edinburgh

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Much like putting an adored but wounded family pet out of its misery, slapping down any one of the torpid and passionless singer-songwriters whose careers seem inevitably destined for dull, playlist-filling success is a brutal task, and one which should be avoided unless strictly necessary.

It's a commonly accepted truth that the likes of Blunt, Melua et al - discounting the vocal merits which have earned them a slice of fame in the first place - make music which exists as a lifestyle accessory.

Although a portion of Corinne Bailey Rae's music is inescapably bland, however, only the most mean-spirited of critics would shoo away her entire output as an irrelevance. Sure, when she produces fingerbells for the unremarkable "Breathless" and talks of love hitting "just like a star across my sky", you can't help but feel stifled by the sheer cloying, inoffensive politeness of it all. Yet "Put Your Records On", the hit single, succeeds for precisely the same reason. Several leagues short of euphoric, it's still chirpy and memorable enough to inspire nods of appreciation when it comes on the radio - which is its purpose.

This signature song, in fact, is about as cheerily likeable as Rae herself, demure in a lime-green dress, and a young veteran of smoky Leeds jazz clubs with a reassuring voice to match. "I've never played a massive gig like this before, it's all new to me," she purrs charmingly, before thanking the crowd for supporting her music. In fact, choosing a Scottish venue for the debut show of her first large-scale national tour was a strategic decision - her husband and onstage saxophonist Jason Rae is a Scot, so the assurance of familial support is there.

As much as her music conforms to expectation in its loose, slowed-down reinterpretation of the acid-jazz style, however, Rae also demonstrates an ability to surprise. Referencing her teenage riot-grrl band Helen, she professes to a love of heavy music, and - despite fearful looks from some of the older heads in the audience - proceeds to cover Led Zeppelin's "Since I've Been Loving You". Where so many other pop artists might embarrass themselves with a version shoehorned into their style, Rae's take on the song is smouldering. A similar effect is achieved with "I'd Like To", hinting that perhaps, if she refuses to be quite so polite in future, her career might blossom.

Touring to 13 April

Comments