25th November 2016
It’s cold tonight in The Church, just down the road from Leeds University and Rumer’s fans have kept their coats on after trekking from all points to catch this benefit gig and intimate gig. We are sat in front of a couple of women from Merseyside and other accents hint at journeys from farther afield. Rumer is a bit of a cult and, despite no evident stagecraft, she maintains an audience through a beautiful voice and a straight-forward honesty. Bereft of the managed stage moves of some performers, she nevertheless wins the crowd’s love with some jokes about the heater she’s stolen from backstage to keep her warm and accounts of the composition of her songs.
Personally, I just wanted to hear the classics of the MOR songbook, delivered by a voice the equal of the greats and possessed of the tones of Karen Carpenter. That’s why The Look Of Love sets the tone so well when it opens the evening. Rumer is well known for her own work and it forms the majority of the evening. Hence a very slow (They Want To Be) Close To You (well, she had to make it her own) is followed by her own Pizza And Pinball – a song about real life winning over gadgets. She doesn’t always know what her songs are about or where they come from and admits as much when she introduces Soul. She has a song she wrote for calming down, not that we aren’t immaculately chilled tonight. Then it’s nice to hear her stretch to a bluesey voice for Aretha. A slightly weak song about PF Sloan follows (though I like her rhyming Sloan – moan – bone!) A House Is Not A Home from the new album of Burt Bacharach songs is amazing – a great song but also immaculately delivered, with Rumer living inside the lyric. It’s not often I go to a gig and just want to hear the new album but she could sing this stuff all night and we’d float out of the place. Hall & Oates’ Sara Smile swings and is inflected magically, winning a massive audience response.
Despite the unmediated presentation, it is clear how wrapped up Rumer is in the singing. Her head turns to smile at the band or sweeps up to a passionate reverie as she interprets the lyric. We’d like to have brought you some close up images but, sadly Rumer is not comfortable in her own skin and said no to the shots we took. It’s a shame when the voice is the star of the show.
The set-up is unusual – no drums. Instead we have electric piano, Fender Precision bass and a guitarist. His restrained Knopfler-ish sound is effective and suits the evening. Sat in the semi-dark, the stage is coloured purple with splashes of red, fake church candles and fairy lights frame the stage; the effect is intimate. Very intimate – there is a toilet to the stage right and when some foolish guest flushes it in a quiet moment, we all share the sound.
But who can dwell on loos when the closing trio of Walk On By, Thankful and What The World Needs Now are upon us? Rumer’s voice is a rich thing of beauty; the sound that cream and Moroccan Thuya wood would make and the audience, quietly respectful all evening, stands and applauds.