Corinne Bailey Rae, The Tabernacle, London
Tuesday 01 December 2009
We missed you," cries a supportive voice from the crowd as Corinne Bailey Rae takes to the stage. "I missed you too," she replies with a smile but, really, this is one pop star with more to worry about of late than retaining her fan base. This is Bailey Rae's first full gig since the 2008 death of her husband, Jason Rae, from a suspected drugs overdose and, while she makes no direct mention of her loss, it looms large in the songs that dominate tonight's short-but-bittersweet set.
Beginning with the slow-burning "Are You Here", a lyrical hymn to her late husband, it's clear that the breezy, but ultimately lightweight, pop-soul of her self-titled 2006 debut is a thing of the past. In its place are a series of emotional, but ultimately life-affirming ballads and some surprisingly robust guitar-led songs. This new sound lies somewhere between the jazzy, cocktail-party heartbreak of early Cardigans albums and the "Back to Black" follow-up Amy Winehouse will probably never get round to making; a curious combination on paper but enthralling enough in the flesh to make her forthcoming second album, The Sea, one of the most anticipated releases of 2010. Whether the new album will hit the commercial heights of her debut remains to be seen, but judged on tonight's performance, you're unlikely to hear a braver, more powerful record in the next 12 months.
The new material may lack obvious pop hits – only the upbeat melody of "Paris Nights and New York Mornings" makes an instant impression – but it's more than made up for by the sheer redemptive power of raw, starkly beautiful songs like "I'd Do It All Again" and "I'd Like to Call It Beauty."
Linking everything together, meanwhile, is Bailey Rae's voice. Previously honey-coated and radio-friendly, it now emerges from under her riot of corkscrew curls as a notably less smooth instrument, but one soaked with the kind of genuine soul you'll never find on The X Factor.
This new-found grit also enhances the few older songs she plays, with "Like a Star" and "Til It Happens to You" unlocking previously hidden depths, but, really, tonight is about moving on.
An encore of her biggest hit, "Put Your Records On", strikes a rare moment of uncomplicated joy, but ultimately it's the new material that leaves the biggest impression. You may not have noticed her absence, but pretty soon you'll wonder where these songs have been all your life.
Geoffrey Macnab reviews American Hustle, also starring Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper
Dennis Rodman will coach the North Korea basketball team
Arts & Ents blogs
Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
Coriolanus, theatre review: 'Tom Hiddleston has blazing stellar power'
Nymphomaniac, film review: 'Despite the surreal sex scenes this is a serious drama'
Call the Midwife Christmas special: Behind the scenes with Miranda Hart
Justin Bieber's mishaps and controversies
Exclusive: Young people ‘want UK to stay in Europe’: Four in 10 adults aged 18 to 24 are ‘firmly in favour’ of membership, poll shows
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
You can STILL be jailed for being a republican, government confirms, and it remains illegal to even 'imagine' overthrowing the Queen
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Fighting back: the woman giving a voice (and 49,999 others) to the victims of sexism - by giving an airing to their horror stories
PM denies two child limit for benefits is part of Tory welfare policy
- 1 America's 'virgin births'? One in 200 mothers 'became pregnant without having sex'
- 2 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 3 Christmas comes early: Justin Bieber is 'retiring from music'
- 4 Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
- 5 Children evacuated from swimming pool after prosthetic leg mistaken for paedophile
- < Previous
- Next >