Friday 3 May 2024

Rachel Chinouriri - Manchester Academy 3 - 2nd May 2024

Rachel Chinouriri celebrated the imminent launch of her debut album What A Devastating Turn Of Events with an intimate stripped down show at Manchester Academy 3 on Thursday night performing seven songs and answering questions about her career and the record in front of an enthusiastic crowd of her "darlings."

It's rare that you find yourself in a room with as much as love and connection between audience and artists as we did with this stripped-down set by Rachel Chinouriri, an artist whose boundless smile and energy it's impossible not to warm to. At the front there's a group of her biggest fans who know the words to the unreleased songs, are wearing big glasses in honour of Rachel and have choreographed their own dance moves to the songs which she jokes she's struggling to keep up with. They've called themselves "darlings" based on So My Darling, one of her earliest songs that provides the final moment of What A Devastating Turn Of Events. 

The connections are made because of the deeply revelatory nature of Rachel's songs and the shared sense of experience they give her audience. Her songs are about discovering yourself, who you are, hating yourself and then learning to love yourself and finding your own voice.  There's songs about loss - the death of her niece in Robbed - and coming to terms with it. My Blood touches on self-harm and why you treat yourself in a way you wouldn't accept from others. All I Ever Asked becomes a sing along conducted by Rachel about the perils of on-line dating as is Dumb Bitch Juice, a song that allows her, and the audience, to lay their pettiness bare and get it off their chest rather than hold it in.

The aforementioned So My Darling is about an early love called Marcus who didn't replicate her feelings in kind. They're still friends, Rachel tells us, and that's still important. She later explains the song, written as a 17 year old, inspired people to send pictures and messages about loved ones that had been lost on the journey and why the song felt like an appropriate way to finish her album of mostly newer material. She finishes the set, accompanied by AC and Callum, with Never Need Me, another song about dating someone who was bad for her. It resonates with the crowd of young women and men, black and white, who sing along, sway in time with the music and roar with appreciation at the end.

Following a couple of minutes break Rachel returns accompanied by Daisy from Stoke (we don't catch her surname) who leads one of the most engaging Q&A sessions we've witnessed. What A Devastating Turn Of Events' cover features English flags and Rachel explains that although she has Zimbabwean heritage she was born and raised here and isn't moving for anyone, to the biggest cheer of the night, as it's part of her sense of belonging and she's trying to turn round how the flag is unwelcoming for a black woman. She talks of her friendship with Florence Pugh that blossomed over lockdown, being seen as a role model for black women in indie and how music breaks down barriers and lets people be friends. 

Before she goes there's a couple of questions from the audience, one of which has her jumping down to the barrier to receive a bracelet from a fan. At the end she tells us she has a medical appointment at 9 as she'd been ill recently, but, to the probable annoyance of her manager, stops for pictures with the crowd as the clock ticks on. We sense she'd still be there now if there were people there to talk to. Rachel Chinouriri is one of those people who it's impossible to dislike, who makes you feel like you know each other and are friends even if you've never met. Her songs achieve the mean feat of being deeply personal to her but which make universal connections - they provide the same release for her as they do for her audience. 

Rachel Chinouriri is on Facebook and Twitter.

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