Exeter, Devon UK • Jun 15, 2024 • VOL XII

Exeter, Devon UK • [date-today] • VOL XII
Home Music RAYE – Radio 1 Big Weekend’s Saturday Headliner

RAYE – Radio 1 Big Weekend’s Saturday Headliner

Emily Pink discusses RAYE's set at Radio 1's Big Weekend from the personal experience of being in the crowd, assessing in great depth the power of the performance and RAYE's incredible discography.
3 mins read
Written by
RAYE during a performance at Pryzm, in Kingston

TW: drug abuse, sexual assault.

Amidst a hectic scramble for a good view on a dusky Saturday evening, the crowd at Radio 1’s Big Weekend erupted in cheers when 4 letters that spelt out a record-breaking BRIT star’s name rose high above the stage. RAYE, full name Rachel Agatha Keen, was set to perform in the prime Saturday headliner spot in Stockwood Park, Luton – her first time doing so in her career so far. I was amongst the crowd, ecstatic to hear my favourite musician live.

Perhaps best known for her club anthems “Prada”, “Escapism” and “BED”, featuring Joel Corry and David Guetta, RAYE released her debut album independent of a label, to critical acclaim. “My 21st Century Blues” is a genre-bending, bluesy and soulful album full of catchy tracks and impressive vocals. The album saw her win six BRIT awards this year, making her the only artist to have taken home six trophies in one night. The South Londoner’s debut album talks candidly about issues of drug abuse, sexual assault, body dysmorphia and eco-anxiety.

Radio 1 certainly allowed the spectacle of “My 21st Century Blues” to flourish in real-time. Accompanied by a huge orchestra and vocal group, the Flames Collective, RAYE’s set was undoubtedly going to live up to the expectations that arise from being a headliner.

Arriving on stage, a bewildered RAYE felt grateful that so many had stayed until the end of the night to watch her set. For me, at least, her presence on the list of acts was all I needed to purchase my tickets. Within seconds, the powerhouse was belting her track “Oscar Winning Tears”, featuring some seriously impressive notes.

Following the bluesy track “The Thrill Is Gone”, she began the immensely powerful “Ice Cream Man”, which details her experience of sexual assault within the music industry.

The surprise of the night came in her revival of popular older tracks in a medley. Featuring “You Don’t Know Me” and “Secrets”, the crowd sang along as best they could while RAYE tracked her career back to the beginning.

My POV in the crowd for RAYE (Emily Pink)

RAYE’s road to success has not been easy, especially when she parted ways with record label Polydor Records after they refused to let her release an album. In setting up her own record label and releasing the album that came to be “My 21st Century Blues”, RAYE’s success has boomed in recent years.

There was no question that RAYE’s set would end with the smash hit that is “Escapism”. As the song reached its climax, fans jumped eagerly to the beat, singing “I don’t want to feel how I did last night” in unison with the pop star.

As she left the stage, the crowds were abuzz with excitement, both from the set they had just witnessed and the excitement that another day of live music lay ahead tomorrow. You can watch RAYE’s captivating set on BBC iPlayer and YouTube.

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