Our chief correspondent, Steven Smith, reviewed the amazing RaRa, performing in QT (also known as the speakeasy bar to us commoners!) at Middle 8 Hotel, Covent Garden, London.
Performance date – Thursday 11th May 2023
Last October Ra Ra (aka Raquel Reno) burst onto our screens when she appeared on the BBC reality TV show “Unbreakable”, alongside her formidable fiancé, Charlie Mullin OBE.
“Unbreakable” 2022 is a reality TV show that claims to have given six celebrity couples the “ultimate test” to prove they are the perfect pair. It’s “funny, relatable and occasionally terrifying”. Rob Beckett coaxes and cringes as six celeb couples compete to prove they’re the perfect pair.
On “Unbreakable” most people I know fell for the bubbly, delightful Reno right away. At first glance, Mullin and Reno may seem like a chalk and cheese pairing, however the reality is that they are a great match. They certainly made for addictive viewing, and in my humble opinion, they went out of the show far too early
On one of the show dinners, Ra Ra (That’s my favourite name for Raquel because it makes her sound like the star I believe she is!) was in conversation with Lincoln Townley (the much acclaimed artist and husband to Loose Women Star, Denise Welch – this pair incidentally won the show), and she announced that she was a singer who had recently travelled all the way to Nashville, Tennessee to record her first album.
Someone piped in “Go on” and RaRa promptly demonstrated her vocal talents, impressing the celebrity couples and us, the audience at home.
However, it was an improv taste of RaRa and by no means her best performance. Raquel has a rare quality and personality wise reminds me a little of ‘Barbara Windsor meets Amanda Barrie’.
There is something about the Cheltenham-born brunette that screams “Gay Icon” right away; she is adorable and makes you want to know more.
Some months after “Unbreakable”, I was privy to her upcoming EP (due out this June). It told a different story. The songs were brilliantly catchy, her voice was incredible and she brought the sixties (my favourite era) bang back to life with a twist.
You can just imagine the pet shop boys calling out to work with Reno.
With the current trend of basic singers being made to sound like Divas by technology, I did wonder how Ra Ra would stand up to a live performance. Did it really matter? We had all fallen for Ra Ra anyway.
I was lucky enough to be invited to her first London concert of 2023, at the intimate and delightful QT bar at Middle Eight Hotel in Covent Garden, where everything about the venue screamed 60’s.
I felt sure the Kray boys and Danny la Rue were going to walk in any minute.
Ra Ra was supported by her three backing singers and a band worthy of the London Palladium. Not being unkind, but initially I did think that this might be to cover up the fact that she is not as strong vocally. Certainly, when she came on stage you rooted for her, but nerves kicked in and the first number was not as amazing as I think the perfectionist that is Raquel would have wanted it to be. However, as she warmed up, the audience began to realise that we were looking at a real super star in the making. We were all brought to our feet in applause. Her vocal range was an unstoppable powerhouse that could bring the roof down.
What is so endearing is how humble Ra-Ra is about her own talent. She is a team player with her band, and she is a writer and an incredible singer, but there is something about her that says she still wonders “How did I get here?!” despite already performing in China and Dubai. It is this vulnerability that Raquel channels to her audience that will make her a huge hit amongst the LGBTQ community. She has fought to get where she is now and just like Judy, Liza and Amy, she has a story to tell, and she is not afraid to show how it feels to believe in who she is.
Certainly, she evokes the feeling of icons like Dusty Springfield and Cilla Back, without imitating them.
Ra-Ra takes time to talk to her audience and that adds to the charm of the evening, thanking her grandmother and apologising for being a hurricane when she comes round. Her grandmother, who was staying at the Savoy Hotel for the night, almost burst with pride, “Raquel brings happiness wherever she goes”, and you really believe her.
Raquel is worthy of the Palladium next time.
Let’s hope she sees what we all saw tonight: a true star who still looks like she would pop the kettle on for her gran or anyone else that she met.
And that’s exactly why I have no doubt that you’ll love Ra Ra just as much as me when her new EP comes out in June.
If there was any criticism to a flawless show, I would say Raquel, you’re the star: get that hair out of your beautiful face, channel your inner Pricilla Presley or another 60’s icon of your choice. I cannot wait to see what you do next.
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Ra Ra performed HERE in the QT at Middle Eight Hotel in Covent Garden