Photographs by Neil Van.
The opening waves of “All We Need” play out like a score to a Kubrick film, slowly bending into an alternative dimension where rap, folk and R&B are an easy medley. In those seconds, Raury is staring at you with wide eyes, expressionless but commanding something from you. Though it changes to a warm hello within seconds, those eyes are inescapable, and the answer is clear: more than attention, he wants a connection.
Raury is a member of the conscious collective floating in a sea of artists birthed from the Internet age, and an incredibly self-aware one at that. He literally wrote his career-breaking mixtape Indigo Child about it two years ago. Now, at just nineteen, his pursuits as an agent of change are hefty, but not pointless; with that genre-bending voice channeling such a deep sense of hope and desire for a better world, it feels like there is something to believe in again.
It’s the undercurrent to Raury’s entire show, a one-hour set celebrating his debut album All We Need, which stopped at Adelaide Hall in Toronto this past weekend as a part of his Crystal Express Tour. He constantly expressed for the close-knit crowd to keep the good vibes rollin’, but the hard passion that fuels songs like “Devil’s Whisper”, “Forbidden Knowledge” and “Revolution” was hard to ignore, even compelling some to place their hands on Raury’s white t-shirt in worship. It didn’t phase the ATLien for a second, who impressively handled the show with a swift refinement that many seasoned artists scramble to find.
Authenticity vibrates from Raury’s persona whether he is singing soulful, hippy guitar-driven tunes like “Friends”, “Cigarette Song” or “Peace Prevails” or reaches deep into his Atlanta roots for the crowd banging “Trap Tears”. Somehow, he strikes a balance between communicating his message without ever compromising the fun; he engages while entertaining, sharing stories of loss and his fears before shape shifting into a confident vocal storyteller that causes people to return his gaze. When you see their arms fly up in the air for “God’s Whisper”, it clicks: we not only need to connect on the very essence of humanity that Raury addresses, but we want to, too. That’s a pretty powerful feeling for anyone to instill, but the fact that it comes from someone so young in their artistry and so young in their career is exciting and inspiring.