Live: JAMES BAY // Electric Brixton, London
James Bay took over Electric Brixton for a special one-off show on Thursday night.
The comeback we all have been waiting for so impatiently. After topping the charts and touring extensively across the globe, James Bay disappeared from our radar for a while. Now however, marking three years since his internationally acclaimed and multi-million selling debut album Chaos And The Calm, the musician is back not only with brand new material but also brand new personal image.
Full to the brim, Electric Brixton was buzzing with excitement in anticipation for James Bay to arrive on stage. Before he revealed his presence, a short film was projected on a big screen located in the middle of the stage. With smoke gradually filling the space, we were drawn to a compilation of random clips detailing a love story, a gripping visual accompaniment that kept reoccurring throughout the entire performance.
James Bay has surely rearranged himself. Leaving behind his signature look of a long-haired singer-songwriter who would not enter the stage without his hat, Bay’s new presentable image strikes as bold and progressive what goes together with his new music. Dressed all in black, with leather elements and fancy boots, he swaggered onto the stage radiating pure confidence.
The lucky ones who found themselves amongst the audience that night were first to hear some of James’s new songs, coming from his forthcoming second record, Electric Light. We’ve already got first taste in the form of two singles; Wild Love that carries a unique vocal solution alongside a choir arrangement, and Pink Lemonade which is a thrilling rhythmical delight, something we have not heard from Bay before. The production is indeed richer but it may also appear as more mainstream comparing to his previous catalogue. All combined might go down two ways; either the fans will fall for the artist’s new appeal or they will long for the old version of him.
What I can tell you is that, do not worry because the rest sounds exactly like classic James Bay. Starting with the opener, Wasted On Each Other, a guitar-driven and straightforward message was delivered in his true punchy style. Bay made good choices when introducing more of his new music. Balancing lighter moments with darker feelings, the emotional accent was kept thanks to the piano ballad Slide. Creating a mesmeric ambience, the darkness covered the whole venue with only a single light streak falling down on the singer. That mood however was quickly changed when James moved on to the catchy riffs of Just For Tonight, an upbeat and relatable song that allowed for bashful hips sways here and there.
Elsewhere in the set, emphasising the strong connection with his audience, James said: “I got to tour my first album for years. It was a wonderful journey and of course, in that time I decided that I’m not gonna do anything else for the rest of my life. And that’s because of you guys.” Showcasing his sensitive side, the delicate strings and poignant chorus of the track Us beautifully carried across the room. With the lyrics: “I believe in something, I believe in us”, he formed a significant bond of belonging.
James Bay has transformed into a true frontman, or perhaps he’s always been one. With magnetic stage presence he easily played against the crowd’s desires and expectations. Stating: “Tonight is special because we’re gonna play some old songs” seemed exactly what the crowd was waiting for. Whilst If You Ever Want To Be In Love went down as a wonderful sing-along moment, Scars and Best Fake Smile brought more of that carefree sensation we all need in our lives from time to time. And as I watched the bar staff caught up in their choreography routine, I couldn’t agree more. “Can we do it again?”, we heard next.
When the most beloved tracks Let It Go and Hold Back The River hit the ether I found it easy to admit that it was simply a great show. With its pensive moments of peace and quiet as well as crazier danceable vibes tangled together, the performance was a perfect introduction to the new audience and a real treat for the most dedicated fans.
Rounding things off exactly as he started all those years ago, with the guitar as his only friend, James Bay took to the stage for the last song, an acoustic solo version of Need The Sun To Break which let his voice soar even higher. However, it wasn’t until he put his guitar on the floor and started singing a cappella synchronizing with the crowd, that I realised James Bay was an unusual musician, constantly evolving in a surprising manner. And he’s about to serve us even more.
Photos: Kasia Osowiecka