To put it simply, seeing RAYE live was the surprise I never knew I needed. My view of her music was largely shaped by the songs I had heard on the radio, accompanied by the assumption that: if KISS plays it, then it has to be pop. Although some of her discography may fall into the pop category, she explores a multitude of sounds. RAYE is nothing short of diverse.
The concert marked a plethora of 'firsts' for me. It was the first music event I attended by myself, the first show I reviewed strictly as press and the first (and last) time I went to a gig with minimal knowledge of the artist. Another first included seeing a performance at Village Underground. The venue feels as if it has an element of secrecy to it. The building is unassuming from the outside, whilst the interior is edgy with brick walls and dark colours. The bright and eye-catching sign that read "RAYE" stood out with a colourful pop because of the contrast. It set the scene perfectly for an intimate, yet lively audience.
The set was opened by Tara Lily, a jazz singer with a modern twist to her songs. She took to the stage with only a keyboard but the basic set really displayed the regality of her vocals. Her voice was simultaneously commanding, controlled and light. My only reproval was that her set wasn't long enough.
The factor that kept me entertained from start to finish was her undying vivacity. RAYE came out with an energetic agenda and adhered to it throughout. She performed Crew ft. Kojo Funds and RAY BLK from her new EP, Side Tape. The song immediately set the tone and the crowd were responsive in a way I had yet to experience. The atmosphere was similar to an exclusive party rather than a concert, and the vibe seemed to suit her style.
She went on to play more songs from her latest project, including a standout performance of Wife Me, which she dedicated to her women in the audience. The song showcased RAYE's talents, not only as a performer but as a songwriter too. She sang with passion and it clearly resonated with a number of listeners as they sang the chorus back to her louder than she could with the mic. Confidence also sparked an excitement within the building. She brought Maleek Berry onstage, who features on and produced the record. The melody is very playful and not typical of rhythms we are used to hearing her on, but the difference is refreshing all the same. Kojo Funds made a cameo too. The East London rapper came to support RAYE by singing Check. I was able to catch up with him after the show and it is clear that he has a lot of respect and admiration for her as an artist.
Owing to the adage, 'the show must go on', she continued to play some of her older tracks as well as some unreleased ones, which came as a treat to many diehard fans present. Her final guest of the night is arguably one of the most influential in terms of building her career. She brought out Jax Jones to sing their hit, You Don't Know Me. This was the song I was most familiar with and described as "pop from the radio". To my surprise, I savoured and appreciated the song just as much as any other I heard at the show.
RAYE has a lot of support from artists and producers within the country as well as internationally and I got visual confirmation as to why. It was the first time I arrived at a concert as press and left as a fan.