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Review: RAYE @ Enmore Theatre (Sydney)

RAYE played Enmore Theatre (Sydney) on 31 January, 2024.
Grace has been singing as long as she can remember. She is passionate about the positive impact live music can have on community and championing artists. She is an avid animal lover, and hopes to one day own a French bulldog.

Anticipation seethes through the crowd at the sold out Enmore Theatre like a mist wrapping around your feet and winding its way up your body. Everyone is waiting eagerly for one woman – RAYE.

PANIA warms up the atmosphere with her soulful vocals accompanied by an acoustic guitarist. She carries attitude and sensitivity well, and the crowd enjoys her immensely.

Swing jazz plays in the interlude over a smoky blue stage, as if you are welcomed down into a basement speakeasy.

The band enter dressed in white suits with black bowties, and the crowd pours forth its pent-up anticipation. RAYE bounces into 'The Thrill Is Gone.' allowing the audience to beg "say something nice to me" back to her. She is instantly engaging and alluring, inciting a first song clap-along followed by her impressive vocal scatting.

She gestures to the brass section for a solo. How many acts have a live brass section? The song ends with impressive operatic a ccapella vocals. She is obviously having the time of her life and we are along for the ride.

"F...in' hell this is insane," she says. "I'm so grateful for your presence here tonight. This is my first ever show in Australia here tonight." The crowd roars like they know this is something special.

"This is gunna be a show of honesty," RAYE sets the ground-rules. "Firstly for youse up there, I forgor to put my nipple covers on tonight, so if a nipple comes out later, just hold a bitch down okay?" The crowd laughs.

'Hard Out Here.' soars. "No weapon formed against me shall ever prosper," RAYE declares boldly, as the drums hit the last notes home. "I found out Sydney is my second biggest market, so thank you for having great taste in music," RAYE toys.

'Oscar Winning Tears.' keeps the show charging along as RAYE hits an extremely long, controlled note. The crowd goes up a level, as if that were even possible. 'Five Star Hotels.' is preceded by a stunning opera section that truly reverberates around the soul.

"The subject of this next song is addictions," RAYE shares. "I believe that addictions are part of the human existence. Nicotene can be addictive. People can be addictive. Cheese can be addictive."

The crowd enjoys more humour. "I wrote this song because some of our addictions are ugly or awkward to talk about. I think part of the reason I struggled so much is because I didn't talk about it. So this is my song called 'Mary Jane.'"

Green lights shoot out across the crowd, creating a lush space for RAYE's honest confessions. Her truth is clearly what calls to her fans' hearts so strongly. 'Body Dysmorphia.' carries right on in the sentimental vein, a topic RAYE shares she is still working through.

"This next song is the hardest song I've ever written. I find it hard to listen to, hard to sing, hard to talk about. The r word." She pauses before shaking off her inhibition. "Rape. I feel uncomfortable saying that word, but why should I feel embarrassed to say the thing that was done to me?"

She is telling not asking. "When I didn't talk about it, it ate me up. So I made this song in my own way to remind myself, on my good days and bad, that you've taken that, but you're not taking anything else from me. I won't let you ruin my future relationships, my trust in humanity.

"Tonight I want you to allow yourself to feel it, and this is a safe space," she invites the crowd to participate in their own way.

'Ice Cream Man.' plays to a sombre and supportive audience with many a wet eye. "I see some very brave, strong women in here tonight," RAYE sings, gesturing to the audience. "I'm going over to the piano, we're going to have a little singsong," she lightens the mood.

She sings five fan requests alone on the keys, recounting that 'Natalie Don't' isn't even about Natalie, she just needed a three syllable name that rolled off the tongue. "This song is for you, it isn't about you," she confirms to a Natalie in the crowd.

'You Don't Know Me' is the most danceable moment so far, before 'Secrets' takes us to a dark post-midnight dance floor. 'Black Mascara.' proves we are in a very different realm to ten minutes ago, and 'Prada' keeps it there.

"I'm gunna take you somewhere else now," RAYE promises, as we approach another fork in the road. "You've been raving, it's 4am, the lights come on and the guys in the nightclub are like 'get out'. You go down the street, and you see a red neon sign that says jazz. So you stumble inside and find the gorgeous sound of Tess on the saxophone."

She gestures to her smoothly talented saxophonist. 'Worth It' plays, as the crowd sway and sing. For 'Buss It Down.', RAYE conducts the entire crowd as her personal gospel choir and the result is a memorable, heartwarming experience.

"I'm going to say goodnight and then walk off and you all can stomp or clap and then I'll come back on ok?" RAYE asks. She did promise honesty.

She plays out the pantomime to the band's ferocious ending and the crowd scream "one more song!" before they've even finished. The heroine returns, closing the show with 'Escapism.'.

Hitting the two-hour mark, RAYE's set was a truly epic journey of the soul. Highs, lows, anger, joy and, above all, connection shone through. RAYE is a strong, flawed, and brave human being – she's just like us, and that's why she resonates so deeply.

Better yet, she proves that life can push through the darkest times into the optimism and hope of tomorrow, and she carries those tomorrows today. An absolutely brilliant experience.

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