The show began a bit late. The crowd buzzed in anticipation. A chant rose over the background hip-hop tracks: “Rau-ry! Rau-ry! Rau-ry!” A few people in the front rows held up paper cut-outs on sticks of the Indigo Child illustration from his debut album cover (2014). Hands were marked with black X’s. It was a young audience that night.
When Raury finally appeared on the U Street Music Hall stage on Friday night, the crowd surged forward in a single, rushing movement with a collective cheer. He was dressed in skinny black leather pants and a glittery silver sweater, his signature wide-brimmed sunhat perched lightly on his head. (He calls it the “Raury Hat.”)
For the entire first song, I couldn’t hear a word he sang. Everyone was so excited to see him.
Raury looks young, but overall, the show felt surprisingly mature. His youth and that of his fans was only truly apparent in the black X’s marking the backs of hands and the unchecked high energy that filled the venue. It was refreshing and real.
There is something about Raury’s stage presence that is magnetic and tense. In past interviews, he has identified as an introvert.
He’s not the most relaxed performer, but he was earnest and convincing in every delivered line. With his lyrics came compelling expressions, his posture at once restrained and then wide open – as if there was no amount of power to insert into his voice that would ever fully express what he was trying to say.
Guess I’m an owl
amongst the birds, yeah.
– “Cigarette Song”
To support him, he had a guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboardist. I noticed they were all as into each song as he was. Eyes closed, ducking down over their instruments, grinning. I loved that.
In person, his sound – his voice, the accompanying instrumentals, the lyrics – is heavier and fuller. It could be that perception is just a product of a live performance. I don’t think so. Despite being an introvert, or perhaps because of it, the internalized intensity he carries just provided his performance with that much more depth. For someone so young, he definitely knows how to put on a captivating show.
If you in the city, you don’t want to be a mess.
So we get used to being a-lone, pack of cigarillos, a smooth bottle of patron.
A world where I can chill with no plan to stay long,
‘Cause I’mma live it up until I die.
Toward the end of the show, he asked that the crowd take a moment of silence for those lost and wrongfully killed.
And then, during “God’s Whisper,” the stage went dark but for the red spotlights. The crowd sang along in a chant, hands up, jumping up and down, crowded together as close to the stage as they could get.
I won’t compromise.
I won’t live a life
On my knees.
– “God’s Whisper”
The entire venue turned into something intense and hauntingly beautiful.
“I hope you came here for inspiration,” Raury said.
Well, we sure left with it.