09 March 2023 (gig)
10 March 2023
RAYE at London’s roundhouse. Undoubtedly, one of the most intimate, personal and interactive gigs I’ve ever attended. Much like the thematically vulnerable nature of the record, Wednesday night’s performance was characterised by openness and rawness, but, ironically, with an equal emphasis upon expressing the humour in certain traumas (examples of which I intend to detail in due course).
RAYE appropriately commenced the concert with ‘My 21st Century Blues’’ opening track, ‘Introduction’, effectively, as she claims, setting the scene as she loves to do lyrically. With RAYE consistently affirming throughout various album promotional campaigns that the record should be listened to in order, it was initially incongruous that the setlist did not follow the same chronological direction as the album. However, RAYE assured her audience that there was clear intention behind this unfamiliarity. Specifically, Keen wanted her show to be divided into segments, with each one evoking a distinctive emotion – both pleasant and unpleasant.
After relishing in the sexually liberating, R&B slow jam, ‘Five Star Hotels’, to which RAYE humorously admitted that she has never actually been to a five-star hotel in Mauritius, we were then invited to witness a very drastic atmospheric transformation. In what was arguably the most visually vulnerable element of the entire concert, RAYE stripped to her underwear to perform ‘Body Dysmorphia’ – a track, as RAYE states, alluding to the toxicity associated with struggling to meet society’s unrealistic beauty standards. This was followed by an equally emotional and sensitive performance of ‘Ice Cream Man’.
Subsequent to the darker division of RAYE’s show, we were then greeted to an acoustic, piano performance comprising a roster of her dance-pop hits. For anyone who is a fan of RAYE, it's no secret that her former label was pushing her to make music which was ultimately causing her deep unhappiness. In fact, it was here whereby Keen became candid with her audience – claiming that even though she hated the song ‘BED’, RAYE’s three-way collaboration with dance music heavy-weights, Joel Corry and David Guetta, her bank account loved it! Independent of the outspoken nature of this piano set, it was at this point where RAYE was able to showcase her stunning vocals, whilst also maintaining a humanising warmth. I would argue that this was most prominently evidenced by the fact that she kept asking the audience if she had a double chin when trying to reach her lower register!
After concluding the concert with ‘Fin.’, ‘My 21st Century Blues’’ closing track, we were left disappointed that we had not yet heard ‘Escapism’; RAYE’s first UK number one. However, Keen clearly knows how to captivate an audience as she eventually catapulted back to the stage to perform an ‘Escapism’ exclusive encore.
This was easily a five-star (no pun intended) experience, a rating I credit primarily to RAYE’s incredible stage presence, gratitude and consistent interaction with her crowd. Beautiful!
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