The British soul singer had us singing in tune, clapping on beat, and demanding encores in the small space at Mississippi Studios.
PHOTOS BY JENNI MOORE
Mississippi Studios seems almost too small a venue for such a widely respected and established talent, but it was actually an appropriately intimate environment to experience Bailey Rae’s well-rounded musicianship, and lovable personality. From her long luscious curls to her boho-R&B sound, the 37-year-old “Like A Star” singer has grown a lot. (Don’t get me wrong, she’s still adorable as hell and we all wanted to adopt her). Her second studio album The Sea (2010), came two years after the tragic death of her husband, saxophonist Jason Rae. The Sea was a vivid expression of that grief. On her latest release The Heart Speaks in Whispers, out on May 13, Corinne Bailey Rae combines contemporary soul vocals with a new age-bohemian quality as she expressly finds joy again.
Throughout the evening Corinne switched between two guitars, tambourine, and some other hand percussion, all while keeping a clean and smooth vocal. The whole set felt like a private listening party at one of her band’s prolonged jam sessions. Speaking of which, Corinne has really fleshed-out her band situation, and the crowd showed love.
While Corinne’s music is a bit mellow for my personal daily consumption, I absolutely loved seeing her live. She sings so beautifully, and you can tell it’s just instinctual for her. Sheesh! It’s no wonder the singer-songwriter has garnered two Grammys, performed at Black Girls Rock!, and The White House, (and remarried to multi-instrumentalist Steve Brown with whom she works and tours professionally)!
After each and every song Corinne would softly say “thank you” with British accent and a bashful smile, and she took every opportunity to introduce us to the members of her band. As she neared the last song, the crowd firmly protested and started shouting out other names of songs she should perform: “Like A Star!” “Put Your Records On!” “Closer!” She agreed to an encore before even starting the last song. “This is the official last song,” she said before giving us two additional songs. What a sweetheart.
So I was thrilled I got to see her perform AND go see a show at Mississippi Studios finally. It was pretty easy to snag a spot close-up on the floor. Hell, even the balcony seating had a great view of the stage. Plus the drinks offered here are superb, and it just feels good to be in here — a contrast to venues like Crystal Ballroom, The Roseland and Wonder Ballroom. Since Bailey Rae promised she would return to Portland “soon,” I wonder where she’ll choose for her next visit. One of my favorite parts of the evening is when she complimented us on our beautiful, green little city:
“We had a walk around your city earlier and we thought ‘what a beautiful place to live,'” she said. “So congratulations.”
And while I loved Mississippi Studios, there is one thing that could enhance this experience: if I could enjoy her performance in some sort of lounge/marijuana cafe where I could have the option of being comfortably seated while I clap and sing along (and smoke a bowl). We’re all getting older, and I don’t know about you but…standing in one place hurts my back, and my knees. Especially after a long day in 99-degree weather, it would be nice if we could have a space to medicate with the legal leaf. (I’ll be honest: I’m getting sick of smoking in my car right before entering every venue. Because sometimes you get pulled over, and your car may or may not smell like weed, and I don’t want any questions.) And it’s not fair; Alcohol and tobacco users can abuse their dangerous substances at that place, yet I’m not allowed to inhale plant smoke. So rude!
I realize that marijuana cafe venues are probably a far-off venture, but a girl can dream.