After a long day of working (the “nine-to-five,” followed by the part time, and a ton of driving in between), I headed to Manhattan with two of my coworkers; we were off to see Corinne Bailey Rae at Webster Hall (New York, NY USA). It was our first time hanging out together outside of work, and our first time seeing Corinne Bailey Rae… and the night was perfect.
We got to the city, drove directly into a lot, and admittedly went to get a bite to eat, risking the chance of not seeing the opening act, Daniel Merriweather. When we finally arrived at Webster Hall, heading for the bar area on the main floor, I had a bit of regret not catching the entire Merriweather set. His band and he were tight, his demeanor welcoming and amicable, and he even joked about selling CDs at the end of the set “in the back” so that he would be able to pay the rent.
At this pointed we headed up to the balcony, settling into our second of three spots of the night. (Also, at this point, again my camera started acting up again; apologies for the lack of strong photos.) Then the main event started: Corrine Bailey Rae opened with “Are You There,” the opening track of her current album, “The Sea.” (Previously reviewed: link.) The album’s conception predates her husband’s sudden death, as the process of the composition started with him; after months in solitude, Bailey Rae returned to the studio, both as a means of coming to terms with her emotions and life and starting the cathartic process of starting life all over again. And it was with that knowledge that I came to the show, a bit nervous about what exactly to expect. I had no doubt that her performance would be technically spot on, but what I did not know was just how emotionally powerful and positive the show was going to be. After getting comfortable in our second spot, the band came on stage. Backed by a five-piece-band, Bailey Rae strummed her white electric guitar as she soulfully sung, “Are you here? Are you here? Are you here? Cause my heart recalls that… it all seems the same… it all feels the same.” Her voice was simply amazing; thousands of times more soulful live, thousands of times more powerful.
Soon after the first song, we headed back to the main floor, and (politely of course) headed up to get a closer spot. Backing her on the stage were Jennifer Birch on guitar, Steven Brown on keyboards, Luke Flowers on drums, Kenny Higgins on bass, and John Maccalum on guitar, who shared lead vocal duties with Bailey Rae on the final song of the evening, Evans and Livingston’s “Que Sera Sera” – and I assure you there was no hint of Doris Day in this cover version! There was a gospel feel to the end of the show, one that lent so much positively and energy. When she sang “que sera sera” [what will be, will be], there was no sense of resignation or sorrow… there was no sense of ambivalence. Instead, Bailey Rae embraced the words… owned them!… in perhaps the ultimate realization: we must accept life at the moments we most wish to forget it and live on.
As I have admitted in a previous post, though Bailey Rae has been in my radar for quite sometime, it was not till “The Sea” that I really started to listen. This really burns me, as in current days I have become attached to her eponymous debut album. Hence, my favorite moment of the evening was the performance of “Put Your Records On.” And of course, another great moment was “Like a Star”: “You’ve got this look I can’t describe; you make me feel like I’m alive. When everything else is a fade, without a doubt you’re on my side.” Without a doubt, the recorded rendition of the song pales in comparison with the live rendition. (By this time, I realized that I was so swept into the show that I had not written down the complete setlist!)
Other songs from “The Sea” that really hit an emotional spot for the crowd included “Paris Nights/New York Morning” (which she introduced as being inspired by New York City), “Paper Dolls,” and the titular track: “The Sea.” The final song of the main set, she sang, “The sea… takes everything from me.” Again, just like what would follow with “Que Sera Sera,” there was no sign of resignation that you hear on the album… Instead, there was visceral power of acceptance that was overwhelming and quite beautiful. And you realize that Bailey Rae’s ultimate message/example is to live life, to embrace it all, the good and the bad, and grow from it, and ultimately always do something positive with what life has dealt you.
One of the year’s best albums? Check. Great performance? Check. If you get a chance to catch Corrine Bailey Rae live, do not hesitate – she will sing time away as you are trapped in the beauty of her voice.
Keep up with Corinne Bailey Rae at her homepage, MySpace, Facebook, and Twitter.