After having released a total of three EPs, spending the past year supporting the likes of Hozier and Tom Odell and performing live on stage this Autumn at the prestigious Spring/Summer 2015 Burberry show, recent Brit Award winner, James Bay, took to the stage at Birmingham’s O2 Academy.
The tour, which quickly sold out, was in honour of his latest EP release Hold Back The River, which topped the iTunes charts just days before. It appears that in the year or so that James has launched his musical career he has gathered a large following. Taking his rapid popularity growth into consideration, it was to be expected that this performance was going to be something special.
Four piece band, Port Isla [8/10] from Norwich, kicked off what was an incredible show and impressed the crowd with their indie/folk sound and musical abilities on multiple instruments. The band played a mixture of original songs, including a selection from their new EP, In The Long Run, and succeeded in engaging the crowd in a way that many support bands struggle to. Although the style of music differed slightly in genre to James, it still suited the tone of the gig and complemented the wonder that was to come.
Unsurprisingly, there was a thunderous applause when James Bay [10/10] took centre stage with the support of his band, and of course, wearing his trademark hat. He greeted the crowd in his usual humble manner before beginning with ‘Craving’ and moving straight into ‘When We Were On Fire’, from his debut EP The Dark Of The Morning. He then played a trio of songs from his Let It Go EP, including ‘If You Ever Want To Be In Love’, with its catchy rhythm, and ‘Running’ which exhibited the softness and pure beauty of Bay’s voice. This was followed by crowd favourite, ‘Let It Go’, which caused an excitement to stir through the crowd and ended with a momentous applause that continued throughout James’ modest thank-you’s. It was a truly special moment and a rare occurrence to happen only a third of the way into the set.
This deafening applause was a stark difference, however, to the absolute silence when James’ band exited the stage and left him to share a heartfelt moment with the crowd. James’ took the opportunity to tell a personal story about the song ‘Scars’ which took him two years to complete after he went through heart ache. It was a very intimate moment and gave a much deeper level to the lyrics of the song which not only demonstrated the skill of James as a songwriter but gave an insight into how music has helped him to deal with difficulties and is a real passion rather than merely a job.
James then displayed his diversity in playing one of his more bluesy tracks ‘Sparks’ which, with its almost western edge, allowed him to really rock out on stage. He then took it down a few notches and returned to the simplicity of the first EP, playing ‘Move Together’ and ‘Need The Sun To Break’, blowing the crowd away with his truly exquisite vocal which appears to be limitless. He then switched back to his electric guitar and played ‘Best Fake Smile’ which picked up the energy in the room with the pure passion and emotion he expels when he plays – a perfect song to end with to get the crowd begging for the encore.
The two-song encore consisted of old favourite ‘Clocks Go Forward’ and the lead track to his latest EP and nominee for Zane Lowe’s Hottest Record for 2014 ‘Hold Back The River’; it could be said that James saved the best till last.