Corine Bailey Rae (photo: Robert Alleyne)
Three songs into Corinne Bailey Rae‘s set at the Fillmore in San Francisco I looked back to the crowd and took in the scene. It was beautiful. A crowd of people looked like they were in spiritual harmony as they watched this British soul singer from the city of Leeds. A couple at the front caught my eye as they were completely lost in one another arms and touch. My mind drifted off and imagined, for a moment, what my parents are like together in those moments I cannot witness. The woman closed her eyes as she leant ever so softly into her partner’s protective arms — her eyes closed for a moment and it looked like they were alone in the room. Corinne was serenading with her music and the audience were radiating with love back to her.
Her set started with a soothing dance-tinged rendition of “Been To The Moon” — as her band started to heat up during the intro she grabbed the mic smiling as she looked out across the sold out venue. This, the third of four stops on the West Coast, was the first to sell out — something that is becoming a theme on her visits to San Francisco after selling out the Independent in June of last year.
Last year also saw the release of her third studio album, The Heart Speaks In Whispers, which was an opportunity for Rae to experiment with a gentle take on psychedelic soul, fusing restrained jazz elements with soulful electro undertones. One of the big draws to Corinne Bailey Rae is the way in the way she has slightly altered her music over in each albums. Since winning the BBC Sound of 2006 11 years ago, the first woman to do so, she released the playful and carefree self-titled debut, and then four years later the more introspective, and jazz-based, The Sea. Luckily for those in attendance at the Fillmore, she did not shy away from digging deep into all three records.
Each song came with a story to add depth to the show; from tales about how she wrote “Green Aphrodisiac” with King on a scorching hot day, to how “Paris Nights/New York Mornings” was the first song she wrote as she started travelling the world with her music. An inventive, neo-soul-esque rendition of Bob Marley’s “Is this Love” suggested she was in good spirits and then, later on, a game of verbal volleyball with John McCallum a few songs later proved it. The crowd clapping and turning the night into one which felt celebratory.
By the time she played fan favorites “Trouble Sleeping” and “Put Your Records On” cheers were rising up during the first chords; on the latter, she asked the crowd to sing along and they duly obliged for much of the record. It was not an entire night of celebratory renditions of soothing soul tracks and enjoyed her opportunities to mellow the crowd when she could. Her performance of “I’d Do It All Again” built into an ethereal moment which felt lovingly cathartic.
Opening the night was Jamila Woods, who provided a more revolutionary take on soul music. Woods has been gaining critical acclaim for her music due to its urgent and necessary tone. This was on full display during her brisk opening set. “I’ll be on my Giovanni Tea and honey / I tell it like I see it…” she sings of during her new song “Giovanni” — the words rolling off her tongue like a melodic rap. As she performed there were a few voices singing along in the audience. With lyrics like, “We go missing by the hundreds / Ain’t nobody checking for us,” on “Blk Girl Soldier” is music that demands your attention, and made even more poignant by the way in which the words are delivered with a warm singing style devoid of anger of impatience.
Halfway through the set, Corinne Bailey Rae spoke about being in the moment — celebrating the beauty of how this group of people will never be together again. It was a poignant moment and made me appreciate the concert even more than I was up until that point. Corinne Bailey Rae’s performance was honest and beautiful. As I left the Fillmore watching the lovers holding hands, it made me think she also helped to spread a little more love in San Francisco that night too!