Raye at The Academy, Dublin on November 8th 2018
It’s a cold winter evening in Dublin and the warmth of crowded main room of The Academy is most welcome. A youthful audience of 16-25 year olds populate the venue, necessitating the need for pre-alcohol approved wrist bands.
The youthful audience is the result of the steady stream of number one hits that Raye has released since her inception back in 2015 – this audience is here to dance. Raye is an artist that has been steadily on the rise for a number of years now thanks to some fruitful collaborations; most will know her for providing vocals on the 2017 smash The Line as well as the irresistible Cigarette featuring Mabel and Stefflon Don.
Raye boasts an impressive four-piece band who perform an exhilarating intro before she joins them on the stage to the opening strains of Friends. Raye is dressed to dance in a shimmering two-piece trouser suit and trainers (practical). She is immediately charismatic and evidently elated at the sight of her equally delighted crowd.
Raye (21) performs much of her dynamic discography including Breaking News and Confidence; By Your Side is a sure highlight with a compelling instrumental section rendering mandatory head-banging. Tracks from her 2016 EP ‘Second’ were notably absent from the high-octane set, which may have came as a disappointment to older fans. Distraction and I, U, Us are fan favourites but they would not have fit in with the aesthetic of this upbeat set. It felt, at times, that Raye was compromising her musicianship and artistry for the sake of appeasing her hit-hungry audience.
This is why a lengthy acoustic section featuring the Londoner on keys was an unexpected addition. Sober and an unreleased track titled Ice Cream feature, which the singer becoming notably emotional about while discussing its heartbreaking backstory. It’s an evocative section and the highlight of the set because Raye lets down her guard which has been firmly up for most of the evening.
Finishing abruptly with Decline, its difficult not to feel as though Raye is an artist that is at somewhat of crossroads in her career. The commercial success of her hit collaborations is reason enough to abandon the original material missing from her live sets, but the acoustic songs that featured imply that she still very much wishes to include these tracks with some more substance. A decision as to what kind of artist she wants to be is pending; one that follows the hits or one that follows her artistic path, let’s hope she chooses the latter.