Having been all around the world twice since her last visit, Corinne Bailey Rae assured her Leeds fans that she was “glad to be back” in her home town. The soul singer played an intimate gig at the HiFi club back in May as part of the Live At Leeds festival. She returned last week to showcase her latest album The Heart Speaks Whispers.
Wearing a shimmery turquoise jumpsuit, she launched into her first song Nina Simone-style, raising her arms and willing her voice to spread as far as it could. Her outfit teamed with the red, green and purple lights that illuminated the organ at the back of the town hall complimented the futurist theme that runs throughout her music videos for the new album.
She started with her new material and her audience was already familiar with the lyrics, those at the front even spurring on dance moves amongst the standing crowd. A few songs later Corinne took out her acoustic guitar and strummed along to ‘Breathless’ and ’Til It Happens To You’, which was the show’s best display of her creative talent.
Unfortunately it was difficult to hear the lyrics to other songs, as the band overwhelmed her voice making it hard to tease out what she was singing. It gave the impression that the town hall [capitalised?] venue was too large to really appreciate the performance or that the sound engineers underestimated the acoustics of the building.
Her cover of Bob Marley’s ‘Is This Love’ was a high point, a personal soul-felt tribute to the reggae legend that naturally erupted into a huge audience sing along. Nonetheless the dedicated audience was singing and dancing throughout the show. She played her big hit ‘Put Your Records On’ towards the end of the set, but it didn’t feel like anyone was waiting for her to blast out this top tune. Unlike the HiFi festival gig, the crowd went along to the town hall for her new album, rather than the old chart-toppers she released in the noughties.
Speaking about her songwriting, she told the audience she preferred writing in the spring and felt that her lyrics reflected the seasons and “a time of transformation”. She joked about the terrible weather in the North of England, which was met with cheers of agreement from the audience.
Always ready to interact with her fans, towards the end she asked the crowd to get involved with her song ‘Trouble Sleeping’ with the refrain ‘don’t say that I’m falling in love’ echoing through Leeds Town Hall.
Her band must not go unmentioned. She allowed her guitarist a solo that could only have been influenced by Santana. Next her pianist indulged in a piano break during ‘Breathless’, which had a cool spacey feel to it. The sounds of the band playing solo were terrific, but when combined and reaching a forte often drowned out the singer’s voice — unless you were lucky enough to stand right at the front.