Review: Tom McRae at the Wedgewood Rooms

Tom McRae

Tom McRae

The Solent Symphony Orchestra

REVIEW: Solent Symphony Orchestra at Royal Marines Museum, Southsea

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‘I know you’re all intelligent people because you’ve come to my show,’ muses Tom McRae. ‘And some of you are probably homeless. Rainy nights can do that.’

That’s a typically self-deprecating line from a critically-acclaimed singer-songwriter who has built up a select but loyal following since suffering the curse of a Mercury Prize nomination in 2000.

In the past he’s seemed bitter at the lack of mainstream success that followed, but today 44-year-old McRae - visibly older, more sanguine and touring without a band for the first time - seems happier with where he finds himself.

He treats us, of course, to choice cuts from his latest offering From The Lowlands, a low-key album obsessed with water, loneliness and the passing of time.

But there’s plenty of delving into the back catalogue and familiar songs are given a new twist thanks to the necessity of performing with just a guitar and a cleverly-employed loop pedal.

Above all, it’s McRae’s voice that ruthlessly hits the target - high, clear and delivering both tenderness and vitriol with laser-guided precision.

There’s audience participation too, from what he affectionately calls his Muppet Chorus - and a wander through the seated crowd with his ukelele is a highlight.

Almost two hours in, he returns from backstage for the inevitable encore - muttering ‘turns out you can’t get out that way’ - and delivers his killer punch - The Boy With The Bubblegun. ‘If songs could kill,’ he sings sweetly, ‘this one’s for you’. It’s like being punched in the face with a velvet glove, and still you want to thank him afterwards.

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