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Raye at KOKO's - 06/11/18

From crying with joy at the support of her crowd to breaking down on stage while performing unreleased song “Ice-cream” about her own experiences with ‘abuse', Raye’s show had it all. Now, she’s waiting to go into overdrive after a landmark hometown sold-out show at KOKO’s.

Raye is only 21 and already has three EPs, a string of singles and guest appearances under her belt and it is that youthful success that shows through in her performance. Every song is given a choppy introduction and songs only a year old are referred to as ‘throwbacks’. Yet, Raye’s voice resonates and lifts the crowd like a charm. You can’t help but admire her. Her stories about being a young girl looking up on the stage at KOKO’s countless times, waiting for her turn at the mic, are sweet stories come true.

Raye is late. She comes on around 25 mins after the scheduled time (presumably a late end to support act Kara Marni) but after that, not a minute feels wasted. Giant fluorescent R-A-Y-E letters light up in front of three huge screens , the crowd ooh-ahh’s and the pop R&B singer takes to the stage opening with “Crew” off her latest EP then followed swiftly by 2018 banger “Friends” and 2017’s “The Line”. Before each song, she reminds us of who she is; a young girl at heart whose dreams have come true. She also has a fierce and spritely stage presence; jumping, pounding and reverberating with the crowd.

Images belong to Aliyah Otchere courtesy of Raye

She goes on to the Craig David-sampling and Kojo Funds collab “Love Me”; the backdrop of large screen pillars feature the music video. “This one’s a bit emo”, she comments while reassuring the crowd that “it’s okay to cry”, before introducing her crushing and beautiful stripped down version of ‘Sober’. She takes to the keys solo, promising that she’ll hit the high note despite her onsetting cold. She does, and it is absolutely heartwarming and gut wrenching at the same time.

“As an artist, I’m really open [...] I wouldn’t hold back”, and she’s not wrong. Raye sheds a part of herself in this show and a return to her hometown is for more than just a gig; it’s therapy. She confesses something to us: “a man invaded my... space(?)” telling us that “it’s been hard” for the last couple years, going so far as to blame herself. This is our introduction to the song ‘Ice-cream’ and in fact, it is this song’s debut. It is a harrowing and intense song about ‘abuse’ — “tryna touch me, tryna f*** me I’m not playin’, should have left that place when I walked in”. Raye breaks down halfway through the song. Collecting herself, the audience passes around papers reading “you are a strong woman”. As she gets herself back together, the band introduce more instruments to the arrangement. They interplay and seem to lift Raye back into reality for the song’s climax.

Images belong to Aliyah Otchere courtesy of Raye

On the whole, she seems to undergo a complete metamorphosis onstage going from incredulous at her audience’s support to genuinely thankful to breaking down completely to standing strong on her own two feet as an inspiration for us all. “I’ve come out the other side and now I’m onstage at KOKO’s!”

The show’s crescendo with Jax Jones collab “You Don’t Know Me” chorused by the crowd and regressing into a huge rock-fusion finale is wholly unexpected and fuels the audience for a return to the obvious one-song encore. “Oh alright” Raye jokes, returning to the stage one last time for one last song that begins with a huge vocal show-off, commencing and finishing the night on “Decline”.

“I really want to make this last as long as possible”, Raye said at the start of her performance. You can understand why; the show only lasts an hour and while I feel slightly cheated, I also found the show so fulfilling. You can’t help but wish it lasted longer.

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