RØRY at Camden’s Electric Ballroom, 29/2/24

The rising alt-pop star plays an emotional headline show in London

“Who’s got dyed hair and problems?” RØRY asks her crowd. Many hands fly up. It’s one of many surveys the singer-songwriter will take throughout the evening, most of them a little more sombre – she’ll ask who in the crowd is sober, who’s had a breakup that changed them completely, who’s ever suffered a devastating loss. There’s no pressure to share, she says, but most do regardless. RØRY’s audience aren’t just there because they like her music – they’re there because they relate to much of what she sings about. This, as RØRY herself points out, is both beautiful and heartbreaking.

Help Your Friends Get Sober (Official Music Video)

For a ‘new’ artist (in quotations, since Roxanne Emery has been in and around the scene for many years) the sense of community that RØRY has built in a short amount of time is remarkably strong. But it makes sense. She’s speaking to the alt kids who’ve always gravitated towards music that makes them feel seen. Her pre-show playlist includes Paramore, All Time Low, Avril Lavigne – all met with loud cheers from the crowd. RØRY’s own discography is a guided tour through her traumas, from strained relationships with her family to the loss of her mother at 22, much of it communicated through catchy pop-punk.

She’s incredibly candid onstage, many songs preceded by revealing monologues. ‘Help Your Friends Get Sober’ gives way to a frank discussion about her own substance abuse. ‘Alternative’ sees her discussing the comfort that she takes in imagining an alternate version of herself with a normal, happy family. ‘the apology i’ll never receive’, possibly the evening’s most heartbreaking moment, sees her struggling to keep back her tears. Before ‘Jesus & John Lennon’, a tribute to her late mother, she describes how she still breaks down when she sees someone who looks like her mum in a supermarket.

RØRY - the apology I'll never receive

RØRY describes her genre as “sadcore,” and jokes about the execs who used to tell her that her dance music was catchy but that ‘nobody wants sad lyrics’ – “I beg to differ, Electric Ballroom,” she grins. But there’s also an acknowledgment that whilst her first viral moment with song ‘Psychological War’ was a triumph over those naysayers, it was also “so sad, because it meant that so many of you had been through emotional abuse.”

RØRY’s discography doesn’t shy away from the many heavy topics that the 39-year-old has to get off her chest. But alt-pop has always been a safe space to explore these things, and its live shows have always been a chance for people feeling the same pain to gather, and sing, and dance, and maybe even cry. RØRY exemplifies the value in platforming artists who’ve lived through the dark stuff and can share it onstage with honesty, hindsight, an encouraging word, and a great deal of eloquence.

RØRY continues her UK tour this March and will also play Download festival this June. Find tickets here.

Read our interview with RØRY here.