RAYE’s recent Birmingham show was a uniting experience that showcased the young singer’s raw talents, Music Writer Daisy Kirkaldy reviews
RAYE used to bring massive chart-topping features to mind and not much else (her most popular track being ‘You Don’t Know Me’ with DJ Jax Jones), but after seeing her perform at the O2 Academy on the 1st of November, my opinion of her has changed for the better. RAYE now brings to mind exceptional song writing, the most energy I’ve seen an artist have onstage, incredible emotions and a genuinely powerful voice.
Upon entering the room, you could tell that everyone attending was a huge fan. The stage’s setup was simple, with four neon-sign-esque letters spelling out, funnily enough, RAYE. The letters changed colours in accordance with the emotions behind the songs seamlessly, which also made any pictures taken automatically focus in on RAYE and her brand as an artist. The excitement before she came on created tension, as every slight movement of equipment or band member on stage attracted a roar from the crowd.
RAYE bounded onto stage just after 9pm, and surprisingly opened with a lesser known but still upbeat track called ‘Crew’. In a black-and-white outfit, the red lighting behind her and the band made for an impressive opening image. Her band was fantastic, adapting her electronic songs into equally as entertaining live versions.
RAYE’s connection with the crowd was intense. At one point towards the opening of her set, she gestured to two girls front-and-center and explained that they had flown from Malta to see the show and genuinely seemed to known them personally. It was this ability of hers to recognise members of the audience, combined with the small room she was performed in, which created a friendly atmosphere I’ve never felt before at a gig.
She often confessed that she did not need to sing due to the audience singing every word perfectly. RAYE seemed genuinely impressed when members of the audience knew every syllable to the rap portion of a song, and there was a sense of pride she felt at her less popular songs being sung back to her word-for-word.
There was a keyboard set up in the corner of the stage which, throughout the set, remained unused, except for two songs when she gave her band a break and performed two heart-breaking songs. The first, ‘Sober’, was a nod to a past love interest; the second a haunting story of experiencing past sexual misconduct. It’s cliche, but I’m adamant you could have heard a pin drop due to the genuine silence and awe in between the verses, as the audience was introduced to a harrowing experience RAYE has never spoken about publicly.
She finished with ‘Decline’ in which she samples a 00s classic, Ja Rule’s ‘Always on Time’, which was obviously a crowd favourite. The audience was left out of breath and slightly in awe of her infectious energy and excitement, despite confessing that she was ‘sick’ halfway through her set. RAYE’s set lasted for just over an hour, and I don’t think she could have continued for much longer. Her repertoire felt diverse, dynamic and powerful which is also my new way of describing RAYE herself.