RAYE gives a victorious performance at Parklife Festival

The singer-songwriter blends pop, R&B and dance on the Parklife stage

Before releasing her debut album, My 21st Century Blues, RAYE had been steadily grinding away at her career for 11 years – and, as she tells the crowd in front of the Parklife stage, a lot of people in the music industry were not on her side. You might expect an artist in her position to feel as if she’s finally taking what she’s long been owed, or to appear jaded, or even just a little smug. But RAYE can’t stop thanking us.

“I’ve never walked out to a crowd this big in my entire life,” she laughs after opener ‘Oscar Winning Tears’. The field in front of the Parklife stage – and stretching far away from it – is packed from the very beginning of her set. Throughout her half hour, she repeatedly expresses her gratitude to us all for being here, for listening, for braving the heat. And whilst none of this is unusual from an artist on a festival main stage, coming from RAYE it feels especially genuine.

@ticketmasteruk Raye was definitely worth braving the heat for 💙 #raye #youdontknowme #parklife2023 ♬ original sound – Ticketmaster UK

RAYE is an artist who has been ready to give performances like this for years. She commands the stage like a veteran, because in many ways she is. Her set is constructed around her long-awaited debut album, a project for which her deep love is evident, with the record’s piano bar intro welcoming RAYE onto the stage and her band decked out in white tuxedos. Throughout, she treads the line beautifully between polished professional and chatty, down-to-earth girl at a party. She pushes through illness – “I’m gonna break the last of my vocal chords to give you the best I’ve got” – to deliver searing, smoky vocals and bounces around the stage in dance number ‘Black Mascara’ like it isn’t 28 °C.

There’s also a callback to one of her first big hits: Jax Jones’ ‘You Don’t Know Me’, on which RAYE appeared as a featured vocalist. The song was released in 2016 and is instantly recognisable to everyone in the crowd, if surprising. “That was her?” comes from more than one direction. Raye’s breakthrough may have not always felt inevitable, but things surely couldn’t have gone any other way.

RAYE supports Jungle at All Points East, plays Connect in August and is on tour from 26 September

Tickets for Parklife 2024 are now on sale. Find tickets here.