Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

Since 1923 • For a greater Loyola

The Maroon

REVIEW: RAYE’s soulful ode to New Orleans

Courtesy of Dajah Saul

English singer RAYE brings her love of old-school blues to the birthplace of jazz at the Joy Theater.
With the success of her debut album, “21 Century Blues”, the 26-year-old singer has taken her music on the road.

As a young girl, RAYE visited New Orleans with her father and embraced the musical sensations of the city. When she walked inside of a jazz hall and heard the beauty of authentic blues and jazz, she told the audience that was the moment when music changed for her.

While I wouldn’t normally include the opening act, in this case, it’s hard not to. The opening act was RAYE’s younger sister, artist Absolutely, who’s been releasing music across the entire year. She performed a seven-song setlist, interacting with the audience between each of her songs, some which are unreleased. Establishing herself as an introvert, Absolutely was fantastic in her setlist, resembling the musical strengths of her sister.

Before exiting the stage, however, Absolutely did inform the audience that she had beignets for the first time earlier in the day (which she said were very good), which in New Orleans is a very important right-of-passage for visitors.
In a city well-beloved by RAYE, she turned her tour into a family affair for all audiences to appreciate every musical aspect of her life. So when it was her time to shine, RAYE did not disappoint.

As someone who’s been listening to “21st Century Blues” on repeat (and wrote a review as well), my excitement was through the roof to scream out every single song. Along with my cousin who came with me, the entire room was buzzing with anticipation as the opening “Intro” from the album began to play.

“Hi, New Orleans. Let’s have some fun, shall we?” The room erupted with roaring shouts of excitement. Since the venue was the Joy Theater, it was an intimate, close-knit setting, similar to the feel of a late night jazz club, and RAYE ensured that was the feeling she was going for. RAYE’s vocals are ones to watch out for, as she not only increased the level of her melodies, but transported the audience into a blues fantasy with her siren-like crescendos. Especially during her song, “Mary Jane”, she introduced the song with her own personal story of a jazz club when she was in her early twenties.

Her current saxophonist was performing at a jazz club when she walked in during the late night hours, and he dedicated a saxophone solo to her, to which he played a similar tune to transition into the song. In the middle of her set, while the band was taking a break, RAYE dimmed the lights and sat at a piano at the front of the stage to further interact with the audience.
She asked the entire room what three songs she could play for us, and then, chaos. My cousin and I, including the second row behind us from the balcony, tried to scream for Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black,” but this was of no use.

The songs she did play, however, (all from her older discography) were incredible, thanks to the raw vocals and piano keys that filled the room. As the regular set played throughout the show, my cousin and I swear that RAYE looked at us on the balcony, especially as she sang “Happy Birthday” to the man sitting right behind us (so, I take that as a win).

As the end of the set was approaching, RAYE informed the audience of the series of events to take place in the last six (and yes, six) minutes of the show. She would “close out” the show saying her goodbyes, and then return to the stage for the song of the hour: “Escapism”. Trending towards the beginning of the year for its unique flow and multitude of transitions, “Escapism” was the song that everyone in the audience was waiting for, and RAYE delivered.

If the energy wasn’t electric before, then this was the moment of the show where it was full force. The song was nearing its end, and like many artists, RAYE thanked her band and the audience for such a great night in a city that she will never forget: “I’m so grateful for tonight, thank you so much, New Orleans.”

If you’re feeling like you missed out on the modern blues performance of your life, no worries. The night of the concert, RAYE also released a live version of “21 Century Blues” from her earlier performance at the Royal Albert Hall in London, United Kingdom. If you don’t believe how fantastic this concert was, listen for yourself.

After seeing RAYE and my favorite album of the year performed live, I will continue to be a fan of hers for years to come, and will be buying a ticket immediately to her next tour for future music.

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About the Contributor
Dajah Saul
Dajah Saul, The Wolf Editor
Dajah Saul currently serves as The Maroon’s Wolf Editor. Dajah is a senior majoring in English with a concentration in Film and Digital Media, and she is interested in pursuing the publication or film industry in her future. In her free time, Dajah loves to read, listen to a variety of music with her headphones at all times, and absorb any form of pop culture in the media to rant about. Dajah can be reached at [email protected].

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    D.S.Nov 3, 2023 at 6:29 am

    Excellent article!