A typical Sunday evening of music at the Yardbird is generally pretty chilled affair. Tonight was completely different; we were treated to five performances at my favourite venue – with low red lighting, fairy lights and fittingly a number of birdcages hanging from the ceiling, you really can’t go wrong. From the pre-gig tweets, it was clear that many of James Bay’s fans had travelled far and wide to get here and they were not disappointed. The performances from local artists ranged from an acoustic session from two members of The Dalgrains, the enthusiastic young Connor Hemming to the more folky sets from Sean Stewart and Twelves. They did a good job warming up the eager noisy crowd.
Without further ado, James Bay [8/10] came on stage with his cowboy hat and shoulder length hair and captivated the audience. He had a charismatic stage presence and gave a beautifully melodic and powerful performance of his wonderfully written love songs. He played a couple of tracks on his own and then invited his friend Gerry to join him on stage, playing the keyboard and some shakers. Together they took it to another level and performed a new song, Craving and the rest of the set. A few of his fans were bobbing their heads and singing along, which created a pretty good atmosphere. And at the end of the set, he announced he had a few CDs to give away with a couple of demos on them and said “I’ll be at the back, come have a chat and we can be friends” and so the audience proceeded to form an orderly queue to get a copy of his CD, which he kindly signed after asking for your name and having a little chat. At the young age of 22, James Bay is definitely on my ‘ones to watch’ list for 2014.
The hard copy of the CD which James Bay has been giving away for free during his UK tour only has two songs, whereas the version on Soundcloud (also free and available for download) contains three of his own tracks and a cover of HAIM’s song Forever, which he changes completely to make his own. His music is stripped back to guitar, piano and dynamic vocals. The first song Collide starts with a country feel and his rapsy voice that soon becomes familiar, with a more melodic, soulful chorus and clapping backtrack. My favourite of this EP is Let It Go, a slower track, even more emotional and moving for it. His lyrics speak so much sense to a society that over complicates relationships.
Photo by Alex Shahmiri