live review... James Bay
James Bay has been receiving huge success lately. With his debut album Chaos and the Calm out earlier this year, Bay has been climbing the ladder with his blues-sounding, folk-influenced guitar music and has seen tracks like Hold Back The River reach global fame. He's made appearances at Glastonbury and before tonight's show, Bay sold out three consecutive nights at Brixton Academy and has already sold out one out of two nights at Hammersmith Apollo more than four months in advance. Tonight though, the 25 year old is playing a sold out show just up the road from his hometown. It's hard to move in the room and as the house lights turn to black the screams of a couple of thousand fans rattle your ears. It's not a long wait before a spotlight strikes the centre of the stage and James Bay is seen standing at the top of steps, dressed in black with his iconic hat. "I love you James" shrieks a woman near me. Unfortunately this woman is old enough to be his mum. He takes to the front of the stage, launching into Craving, the first track from his debut record. It feels as though it takes a moment for Bay to warm up and get used to the crowd, but after a couple of songs he seems to be in the swing of things. It's very clear to see that Bay loves playing music. The smiles and occasional "yeah!" towards his band members creates this impression and his interaction with the crowd is something he has perfected, along with being able to swap guitars without accidently hitting his hat... It raises the question, how many times has he practiced that in front of the mirror?
It takes a while for the crowd to get in the mood, and it's only when James Bay plays the first few notes of Let It Go and pauses to say "Ladies and Gentlemen... Ed Sheeran" does the crowd really react. Sheeran doesn't appear insantly though. There is a pause of a few seconds, which felt like a few minutes, before the the man that sold out three nights at Wembley Stadium comes to the centre of the stage to perform Let It Go with Bay. He leaves after the song but you can feel that the atmosphere in the room has been raised significantly. Bay continues his set with a variety of slow and fast songs before leaving the stage after an energetic Best Fake Smile. It takes him a short while to return to the stage for his encore but it is fully worth the wait. He kicks into an Alicia Keys cover with an extended outro which give him the chance to show off how talented he is at playing guitar and let's his pianist and guitarist have a moment to shine. The set is rounded off with none other than Hold Back The River, a perfect way to end a set with two thousand fans singing along.
Watch James Bay bring Ed Sheeran on stage below.