“I’m tremendously proud of this album,” Rumer demurely claims about her impending new record, Boys Don’t Cry.
It’s a far cry from the shy performer who anxiously showcased her debut album, Seasons of My Soul, at London’s St-Giles-in-the-Fields church two years ago. Here, donned in black and assisted by a slick six-piece band and three backing singers, she’s in her element, even boldly name-checking PK Sloan and Aretha Franklin as acquaintances. She’s gone from being frightfully earnest to being, well, rather saucy.
After a decade of slogging around open-mic spots with her guitar in the capital, somebody finally cottoned on that this mellifluously voiced (she’s a giddy blend of Karen Carpenter, Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell) performer was gold-dust. Rumer could sing one of Michael Gove’s new education initiatives and make it sound lovely. Frankly, it’s mystifying that no-one had harnessed her enormous potential before the age of 30.
No matter, since 2010 Rumer has bagged a platinum album, met with Obama at the White House, sung for Burt Bacharach at his pad and snagged two Brit nominations. And her latest record is something to be proud of, and she justifiably leans heavily towards it tonight. The first seven tracks are from Boys Don’t Cry, a covers record of obscure songs originally sung by men, which takes in material by Richie Havens, Hall and Oates, Neil Young and Jimmy Webb. It’s firmly rooted in the 1970s, clearly Rumer’s decade, and she claims it pays “respect to the pathfinders” of music such as the little known but once very successful songwriter PK Sloan. Tonight Rumer reconfigures Jimmy Webb’s heartfelt tribute track “PK Sloan” into a rousing, big-toes-tapping spiritual. It’s followed by an equally exquisite rendition of Townes Van Zandt’s country ballad “Flyin’ Shoes”, with the wonderfully downbeat lyric “I get so tired/ Of these same old blues/ Same old song/ Baby, it won’t be long/ ‘fore I be tyin’ on/ My flyin’ shoes”.
Other highlights include Todd Rundgren’s pleading “Be Nice to Me” and a show-stopping take on Neil Young’s divisive “When a Man Needs a Maid”. However, the biggest audience reaction – and there’s a quite a bit in these austere surroundings – arrives with “oldies” such as “Am I Forgiven”, “Aretha” and her breakthrough hit “Slow”. All of which sound better than they did a couple of years ago; her immaculate voice is maturing beautifully.
“As everyone’s world was slowing down, mine was speeding up,” she informs us before “Slow”. Bet your Carpenters collection on Rumer fast becoming an authentic star.