October 28th sees soul-jazz queen Corinne Bailey Rae reclaiming the stage of Leeds Town Hall. It’s something of a second homecoming for Leeds-born Bailey Rae, having only played in her home city once since her six-year-long hiatus. It couldn’t be a better reintroduction of her unique blend of fluid, weightless soul music.
Opening with ‘Been To The Moon’, Bailey Rae has the majestic concert hall drenched in her soft, plush vocals, and vibrating with quirky space-age synths. She then sets the tone for the rest of the night with the sensual ‘Closer’, which steadily gets the room grooving to its lush saxophone instrumentals. Addressing the crowd for the first time, Bailey Rae humbly expresses her happiness and gratitude at having “people she’s seen walking down the street in Leeds, friends, and family” at her show. “It’s so wonderful to be back home after traveling the world, to America, China, Korea”, she says with a happy sigh.
In both her sound and her presence, Bailey Rae radiates a classic soulfulness that the grandeur and grace of Leeds Town Hall complements beautifully. From her passionate rendition of ‘Till It Happens To You’ that tugs so hard on one’s heartstrings, to the slightly poignant yet upbeat and celebratory ‘Paris Nights/ New York Mornings’, Bailey Rae’s songs are a truly unique blend of soft and hard, light and powerful, that only she can produce. It’s lovely when Bailey Rae gets personal with her audience and her personality shines through; in explaining the origin of ‘Green Aphrodisiac’, she does a little jig and tells of how she wrote it “in [her] sunny place in spring” and explains how it represents “greenness, newness, new beginnings, seasons, change, and new love”. In a similar tone, she explains how ‘Stop Where You Are’ is about being in the present moment and seeing the beauty of the now. The manner in which she delivers these messages of positivity is heart-lifting, a key thread in her latest album Heart Speaks In Whispers.
Bailey Rae flips her hair, waves her guitar above her head, and is extremely expressive with her finger snaps and hand gestures – curiously yet endearingly reminiscent of a happy little tree frog. This enthusiasm no doubt seeps into the crowd, and the trans-generational mass of people sing along, dance along, clap, cheer and even take over the microphone at varying points in the night. Undoubtedly of course, Bailey Rae’s performance has its lower moments of despair and quieter ones of peaceful musing. ‘Hey, I Won’t Break Your Heart’, that sings of relearning love, is delivered in uplifting, ephemeral tones reminiscent of rebirth that are echoed in ‘Do You Ever Think Of Me’, and feature heavily in Heart Speaks In Whispers.
As the night draws to a close, Bailey Rae pulls out her big audience favourites. Chilled soul classic ‘Put Your Records On’ has the audience grooving and singing in recognition. She then crescendos into the uplifting lead track on her new album ‘The Skies Will Break’, and has the room swelling with transcendence and hope. Emotions are running high, and her choice of closing track could not have been more apt; ending with ‘Like A Star’, she gifts each of us a blanket of soft gentle comfort for the journey home. The lights come on, and it’s with a warm, happy buzz that the audience makes its way out into the streets of Leeds.By Lydia Shu