Music Critic Jennifer Brooks reviews Raye’s performance at Radio 1’s Big Weekend

Written by Jennifer Brooks
Images by Raye on Facebook

6-time Brit award winner comes to Luton and not for the airport…who’d have believed that headline. The biggest name in music this year, South London’s RAYE came to Stockwood Park and felt immediately at home. RAYE graced the stage bare foot in a stunning evening dress ready to perform with a full jazz band and choir to an eagerly waiting crowd and she did not disappoint. The BBC Radio 1 Big Weekend made magic happen and dreams come true.

She made it clear from the beginning about her excitement and her nerves in performing to a crowd of such big scale, yet from her first song ‘The Thrill Is Gone’ her nerves were nowhere to be seen. Her theatrical nature radiated throughout her performance and the crowd followed by dancing and singing along. ‘Hard Out There’ and ‘Oscar Winning Tears’ helped build the energy of her set. The stage was clearly all hers.

Her song ‘Ice Cream Man’ followed and brought many in the audience to tears

RAYE’s past negative experiences within the music industry directly influence her decision to be an independent artist in a world where music labels are so highly sought after. She used her moment in the spotlight to give her support to those affected by sexual assault aiming to show those who have been affected are ‘seen’. Her song ‘Ice Cream Man’ followed and brought many in the audience to tears finishing on how she can “see some very brave strong women”. The artists emotion could be seen from front all the way to the back of the audience.

Her aim was to lift the mood and that she did. In particular, ‘Flip A Switch’, ‘You Don’t Know Me’’ and ‘Black Mascara’ had people in the audience jumping with ease and dancing again. ‘You Don’t Know Me’ was a personal surprise as Jax Jones had performed earlier in the day so I thought she may avoid it in her own setlist, I’m glad she didn’t as many in in the crowd knew the song inside out. She also joked about how her song ‘Black Mascara’ is a “dance and cry kind of song” which she wasn’t wrong about. The energy levels on stage and in the crowd never dropped. Towards the end of the set, Raye seemed to feed off the atmosphere; she recognised the popularity of ‘Prada’ on TikTok, and it felt like the entire crowd began to sing along to the chorus. The ‘Worth It Medleysaw her happiness in performing clearly shining through. Finishing on her most popular song ‘Escapism’, RAYE has shown how this is only the beginning of her headlining festivals.

The headliner told the crowd “You got a dream don’t give up” and “here’s to all the dreamers”. RAYE has proven to be an all-round performer touching all emotions from making her audience dance and sing along to even bringing them to tears. She blends Jazz, R&B, Pop and Soul into her talented performance. To see her do this in my hometown, was a once in a lifetime experience.

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