Ten years ago, Corinne Bailey Rae was poised to be a big star. In February 2006, at the age of 27, she released her debut, self-titled album, which would rise to No. 4 on the Billboard 200 charts and sell nearly 2 million copies in the United States and more than 4 million worldwide.
Two years later, as she was working on the follow-up, “The Sea,” her husband, musician Jason Rae, died of an accidental overdose of drugs, and her second album, “The Sea,” released in 2010, became, mostly, a treatise about grief, sorrow and loss.
Rae toured on that album and released a subsequent EP of cover songs, but it would take her six years to resurrect her muse and make another full-length, “The Heart Speaks in Whispers,” released in May.
Tuesday night, before a crowd of about 600 in the Uptown Theater, she and her tight, whip-smart four-piece band delivered a show that tapped into all of Rae’s music catalog, an appealing mix of jazz, soul, R&B, folk, rock and pop that evokes an array of similarities and comparisons to Joni Mitchell, Erykah Badu, Rickie Lee Jones and, on one or two occasions, Esperanza Spalding, who assisted in the recording of “The Heart.”
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Love and romance were themes throughout. She opened with “Been to the Moon,” a silky track from “Heart” that delivers an ultimatum to a suitor: “I’ve been to the moon and stars for you / Now it’s your turn to go for me, too.” She followed that with “Closer,” a track from “The Sea” that’s an appeal for intimacy, then two from her debut album: “Breathless” (“I get so breathless when you call my name”) and the satiny “Till It Happens to You,” a declaration of heartache and doubt.
Throughout the show, Rae exuded a sense of liberation, raising her arms high and sweeping them back and forth, gently shaking her substantial mane of hair and flashing her radiant smile.
Her audience was attentive all night, even during the extended instrumental jams that showcased her band’s considerable skills. Rae joined her mates on acoustic and electric guitar for several tunes, and they applied two- and three-part harmonies.
The crowd sang along to favorites, including the chorus of “Green Aphrodisiac,” a slow, sunny ballad about nature and sex: “Kiss me, your lips taste of honey / Songbirds and bees start a-hummin’.” But no song aroused a bigger response than “Put Your Records On,” a catchy R&B/soul number with a sweet melody and irresistible groove.
She closed the 95-minute show with “Like a Star,” another hit from her debut album and another song about the trials and rewards of love. Before that, though, she sang “The Skies Will Break,” a promise that sorrow will end and redemption is on the way, wisdom she attained the hard way: “The skies will break for you, my friend / It won’t be long until it ends.”
Been to the Moon; Closer; Breathless; Till It Happens to You; Is This Love; Green Aphrodisiac; Tell Me; Paris Nights/New York Mornings; Hey, I Won’t Break Your Heart; Stop Where You Are; Do You Ever Think of Me; Put Your Records On; The Skies Will Break; Like A Star.