LOS ANGELES—Raury takes himself seriously. This is evident in his lyrics and, after watching him perform, his ad-libs, too. There is no room for interpretation; he is the progressive, genre-blending, socially-conscious musician you can either make fun of or manifest the message of.
In the back room of the Sayer’s Club and over the incessant, hurried strumming and hand-drumming of “Revolution”—during which the Atlanta born singer-slash-lyricist called for exactly what the song’s not-so-subtle title implies—Raury delivered lyrics that called for attention (“Each day now a battle for morals or dollars / We slaughter for profit, our sons know no father”) and action (“Lord, save this burning earth”). And with all his weight resting on his mic stand, he swung slowly to the long-winded lyrics and deep bass-driven line of “Forbidden Knowledge.” All this, before showing off some rapid-fire high-knees on the more uplifting “Superfly.”
But soon, Raury’s comfort at (and possible calling to) the stand as a speaker, the podium as a pundit became clearer. After fluttering his fingers over the dreamy keyboard waves of “Her,” he dedicated its follow-up—the bouncy, “The Whole World”-recalling “Crystal Express”—to “lost youths” and for those “chasing a dream.” And before the acoustic, folksy chant-and-clap of “Devil’s Whisper,” he declared that whatever one does—that’s right, anybody—they do “for the profit, or the people.” (So, re-evaluate your life choices and pick a side, guys.) And after calling for the crowd to shine and wave flashlights, phones, and lighters, he encouraged that: “It’s not naive to believe peace could prevail in this world.” (He also reassured us that he wasn’t a “person caught up in a ‘saint’ complex” nor “perfect” before delivering the emotional, yet auto-tuned, 808s & Heartbreak-like “CPU.”)
But for all the messages that came across too strongly as those of a self-appointed preacher, there were also moments, like during the brutal honesty of “Cigarette Song”—“I can’t love you right…[but] if you fuck me right, you can say it, I might say it”—that brought Raury back down to our accessible earth. At 19 years old, he could be the voice of a certain people, but until that’s determined, his power of positive thinking isn’t doing any harm. Right now, couldn’t we probably use more of it?