By Ray Bennett
LONDON – England’s biggest voices come in small packages and in a swinging set at the Shepherds Bush Empire on April 5 , Corinne Bailey Rae showed that while her debut album, a hit in the U.K., is easy listening, she can easily fill the room and occupy the imagination.
A slight figure in a simple white dress, Rae nonetheless commands the stage whether standing at the microphone or sitting on a stool playing guitar. Confident and assured, she wrapped her crisp cadences and sensuous phrasing around a selection of ballads and lively songs that mostly she co-wrote. Backed by a seven-piece outfit with three horns, two guitars, a keyboard player and a percussionist, with two backup singers for some very sweet harmonies, Rae delivered an 11-song set plus two encores, to cover everything on her EMI album.
She kicked off with the engaging “Call Me When You Get This” and moved through some haunting ballads including “Breathless,” “Enchantment” and “Like a Star”.
Rae didn’t talk much except to thank the audience for being there and for buying her records but, as she introduced an insightful treatment of Led Zeppelin’s “Since I’ve Been Loving You,” she did offer a reminder that she’d once been in a heavy rock band named Helen.
Rae said she likes to write honest songs and aside from their appealing melodies, her tunes stand out with intelligent and cliché-free lyrics. Even “Butterfly”, a pretty song about growing up that she dedicated to her mother, was free of syrup.
A packed crowd responded to Rae’s warmth and cleverly adventurous voice so that by the time she went into her U.K. hit single “Put Your Records On”, they were up and dancing.
This review appeared in The Hollywood Reporter.