Rita Ora - Manchester Sound Control
Lovely Rita becomes the most famous carrier of her unlikely moniker this side of Weatherfield. If anyone can give ‘Rita’ a splash of panache, well, Rita Ora can. Move over, Norris. She’s too orangey for crows like you. She’s just for me and my dog.
Well, kinda. A few select dates around the UK give the Kosovan-born popstrel the chance to play to more than just your usual wet Wednesday bloke-and-his-dog crowd but not that many more. (And for ‘bloke’, of course, read ‘high pitched female teen’.) Near hysteria greets her entrance. Pitching up in the tiny Sound Control feels like a marketing swoop rather than the latest stop on a mini tour. Were you there? Tell everyone you know. And keep your ticket stub. This time next year, the enormodomes will have fallen as Ora fever becomes arena-sized.
That said, as an event, it’s not one for the record books. The stage is too low and the crowd too tightly packed for anyone for it to register too deeply. Sure, she sounds great. The voice, honed during her Young British Pop Star Apprenticeship (Sylvia Young School, Eurovision, a de rigueur spot of ‘featuring’s) is solid, punchy and bright rather than husky and bruised. Plus, she’s sharp and likeable enough early on to suggest she can steer clear of becoming overly earnest and deadly serious. Keeping it light, keeping it fun - surely the way to go after a few years of her potential competition, a phalanx of snoresome belters, practising scales when they should be singing.
The set is short, verging on the miserly but it sparks with a handful of nuggets. ‘Hot Right Now’, that permanent radio fixture, ignites the joint. ‘R.I.P.’ is even better, its booming chorus a headlock on your senses. And blow me down if ‘How We Do (Party)’ isn’t the sweetest, sunniest single of this miserable summer. Even a corpse would find itself tapping a finger.
The attentions of Jay-Z and her subsequent signing to his Roc Nation empire give some indication of the expectations and weight of pressure. But early signs suggest she’ll laugh off these minor niggles. As she exits, all smiles and breathless thanks, even security seem impressed. One deadpans: “I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of her.” We will, mate. Just not here.