“Bear with me, I’m learning,” said Rachel Keen, who as Raye is finding that she must get to grips with her trade with an increasing number of eyes pointed in her direction.
She’s among the fastest risers in the crop of next big things for 2017, standing tall with her high ponytail and wide in a voluminous tracksuit. At just 19 she has already toured the arenas supporting the similar Jess Glynne and she currently has two songs in the UK top 40.
As with Glynne’s introduction to the world, those initial hits are guest appearances with dance producers. She sang Jonas Blue’s By Your Side as a piano ballad before accelerating into its springy chorus, and also Jax Jones’s You Don’t Know Me, a song about being reluctantly chatted up which only Ed Sheeran is keeping from the number one spot.
She could easily have come over as a lightweight party girl, bouncing around the stage playing up to the cameraphones. One new song was about a big night out, and another, My Girl, had a high, bubbly chorus that was the evening’s catchiest against stiff competition. But Hotbox, written when she was just 15, was restrained and lovely. A song aired for the first time, Sober, was performed alone at the keyboard and concerned a boyfriend with a drink problem. If it brought down the mood, at least it showed how powerfully she can sing without all the backing froth.
When accompanied by the crowd on I, U, Us, however, she was delighted. While this is all so new to her she’s doing anything but going through the motions, which was the largest part of her appeal tonight.