Raleigh Ritchie, sometimes known as Jacob Anderson or Grey Worm, has found time in his busy schedule to do a mini tour of the UK, covering his hometown Bristol, London and Manchester. The multi-talented performer is showcasing his debut album and probably showing a whole heap of fans of his acting roles that there’s more to him than meets the eye.
Club Academy in Manchester, formerly the Cellar is a cool and intimate venue in the basement of the union building and I vaguely remember stumbling up and down the stairs at the Freshers’ Ball during my university days 16 or so years ago.
First up we have Raye, who dazzles during an energetic half hour set. With a modern soulful voice somewhere between Nelly Furtado and Rihanna, her music is vibrant and positive and brimming with life. Tracks like “Ambition” and “Distraction” are complex, cool and memorable whilst my own personal highlight was the quirky “Alien” which saw Raye and the audience bounce along together, contemplating an extraterrestrial experience. An upcoming release “I, U, Us” gets the crowd involved in some participation and after some sweet words and even sweeter vocals, Raye with her cascade of curls has left us wanting more.
Raleigh opens his set with the album opener “Werld is Mine” which is a fine introduction to both recorded and live playlists, setting out his stall, describing his ambitions and hyping the audience over a “Feeling Good” type dramatic piano backing. He is energetic and as enthusiastic as the crowd and as he moves on into “A Moor” with its summery, echo-ey vibe, he can barely keep still, leaping around like an excitable puppy on stage. It’s incredibly endearing and so refreshing to see a musician who is so excited to be performing. Of course, most acts give it their all and don’t take these opportunities for granted, but with Raleigh Ritchie, there’s just something so genuine about him that despite the level of fame he has already achieved from his high profile acting gigs and steadily building music career, he seems modest and self-deprecating. He introduces himself, makes fun of his own t-shirt, later during a slow jamz-esque section, he mocks his own physique compared to that of Usher and even stops a track to remonstrate the audience downfront who seem to be fighting. He instructs us all that dancing is okay, but no fighting, we’re all here to have a good time. Later, we are instructed to high five those around us and make new friends, join in a bit of call and response and go mental, dancing like no one’s watching during the superlative “Keep it Simple”.
From his debut album “You’re a Man Now, Boy”, Raleigh plays 16 of the 18 tracks on the deluxe edition in his set (see glowing review here) and keeps the momentum going across a fun and sweaty hour plus. Soulful anthems to happiness like “Never Better” and first encore track “Never Better” are lapped up by the crowd and lyrics chanted back, whilst he isn’t afraid to mix it up a bit with slower more traditional r’n’b sounding songs (look at the lyrics, they’re often more complex, fun and irreverent than you might think) like “Life in a Box” and “Stay Inside” and quirky stories as songs like the gem that is “Birthday Girl”, a very early single which playfully recounts a typical relationship conversation which soon unravels to reveal an incredibly dark and twisted ending: “I hope that’s not a hammer, I pray it’s just a rose”… He introduces the song by asking if anyone is celebrating a birthday in the audience, before apologising, but the faithful crowd already know what is to come. His talents as a storyteller, songwriter, singer and entertainer are beyond doubt.
Much of his debut album is concerned with the theme of growing up and reaching maturity with the title track recounting how he has changed and yet stayed the same in many ways, loving Mars Bars, Sunday roasts and “Jurassic Park” (which leads to a joyous post-set rendition of John Williams’ dinosaur film theme as we exit the venue!) and it’s easy to see the exuberant child that is Raleigh Ritchie juxtaposed with the insightful, mature performer version. Standout single “Bloodsport” has the crowd joining in with every last soulful “yeah-yeah-yeah-yeah” and it’s a tour de force of a track, swinging from romantic passion to heartfelt and slightly menacing pledges of lifelong dedication. He brings the house down with “The Greatest” which invites us to join him in his battle cry for self-belief and comradeship.
Whether his next steps lie in bigger and better television film roles, or continued appreciation for his music and larger stages across the country and perhaps world, or most likely both, it seems Raleigh Ritchie will be one to watch. Can he remain as grounded and humble as he still appears in the face of overwhelming admiration?
Find out more about Raleigh on his website, Facebook and twitter.
• Werld is Mine
• A Moor
• I Can Change
• Never Better
• The Chased
• Life in a Box
• Stay Inside
• Birthday Girl
• The Last Romance
• You’re a Man Now, Boy
• Keep it Simple
• Never Say Die
• Stronger Than Ever
• The Greatest