Gig Review- James Bay

Since the release of his first EP in 2013, James Bay has had substantial success, not just the UK, but universally. He started publicising his voice by busking in Brighton and attending open mic shows, eventually grasping attention of more and more people with his soulful music. After touring with Hozier in 2014, Bay became more forefronted in the music industry and later that year released his single ‘Hold Back The River’, the single that spurred his music closer to success. More recently, his chart topping debut album ‘Chaos And The Calm’ was released earlier this year, resulting with a tour for this beautiful, bluesy album.

People gradually start to cram into Manchester Apollo and the lights are dimmed, ready to see what James has to offer. To kick-start the night, we are introduced to one of two support acts for the night: Samm Henshaw along with his band. Admittedly, I don’t usually get hung up on most support acts, maybe because I’m too excited for the main act but Samm definitely sparked up an interest. He captivated the audience with his consoling voice. It was a simple set with only the three members: Samm with incredible soulful vocals, Stefan Adamson the pianist and backing vocals, and the bassist Jordan Bikila. The trio created harmonising vocals to accompany the beautiful lyrics. James chose wisely with this support act.

The second support act Elle King, definitely got the crowd ready for James. Her music is a sort of taste of country music with  kick and a splash of sass. Personally, her sound wasn’t my cup of tea, but definitely seemed to appeal to a lot of the other people there. Although her sound didn’t appeal to me, her voice was absolutely incredible and her profound energy and comedic comments to the crowd made the atmosphere fantastic.

Eventually the light dimmed down and the crowd were left anticipating a silhouetted figure topped with the signature hat.  After a dramatic entrance, the show finally began… Bay opened the gig with his bluesy single ‘Collide’, definitely a strong opening song choice, showing of his prominent husky voice. Throughout the set the audience were given a variety of songs from ‘Chaos and the Calm’. The album consists of songs with such empathy and meaning; from yearning for a relationship, to clinging onto a withering one. After introducing himself to the crowd, he made his way to his next song off the album: ‘Craving’. The lyrics seem to discuss his frustration of not having the capability of being able to escape his hometown, both for his career and himself. James’ energy reflected strongly throughout this song; with the emotion soaring through his voice.

A large percentage of the album revolves around love; yearning for someone or mourning over a disintegrated relationship. After a feisty start to the show with ‘Collide’ and ‘Craving’, James slowed it down with ‘Need The Sun To Break’, a mesmeric performance with all of the words each echoed back to him by the enthralled audience . Following the now slower pace of the songs, ‘Let It Go’ was welcomed to the set with a hauntingly harmonious guitar riff. The song talks about letting go of a once cherished relationship, a touchy subject sang with such anguish. The melancholy lyrics were accompanied by a beautiful set of complimenting chords and a choir of fans symphonising with the man himself. Perhaps I’m being biased on my opinion of the performance because it’s one of my favourite tracks off the album but this one was definitely a show stealer.

As well as the album songs, we were also treated to a cover of Alicia Keys’ song, ‘If I Ain’t Got You’. This gave James chance to show off his unprecedented vocals, but my favourite part of this performance was the intricate guitar riff that he delivered. He showed such passion as he drifted off into his own world of intricate chords, showing off a true talent. The only thing I found disappointing about this was the unappreciative people in the crowd murmuring over the lyric-less music. Although James has an outstanding voice, his skills as a guitarist is something that is very overlooked.

Of course, Bay kept the golden, ‘Hold Back The River’ until the end for the big finale; the track that left Bay peaking at 2nd in the UK charts. An excellent performance followed by a bittersweet farewell and a uniformed bow from Bay and his band mates. Overall, an exceptional night paired with an impressive performance from both support acts and the man himself: James Bay.

James Bay’s Debut album ‘Chaos and the Calm’:

Samm Henshaw’s new EP ‘The Sound Experiment’:

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