Show Review: James Bay

This past Wednesday, June 18th, I was able to attend the small but intimate acoustic show put on by yet another rising talent from across the pond, James Bay. Bay, originally from Hertfordshire, England, played The Slipper Room in New York City, his first return to New York since his performance at the CMJ Music Marathon in October 2013. Bay came on the brink of his latest release, an EP entitled, Let It Go. The EP is also his second US release, and from the crowd’s reaction, it will be the first of many to secure Bay’s growing status in both the UK and the US.

Bay opened with the catchy strums of “If You Ever Want To Be In Love,” a song that just cannot help but make you feel good. It was a great opener, especially in the way it got the small crowd instantly connected, and had us all intrigued to hear more.

“Hear Your Heart” was just what it sounds like: heartfelt. Bay had an incredible way of changing the pace of the song to keep you moving along with every emotion you know he must have felt writing it. He had both power and sensitivity, and it came through not only in his voice, but also in the way he played. His voice and an acoustic guitar seem like simple instruments, but it is a true testament to Bay’s talent what he can do with such music.

“Let It Go” was another powerful piece, an excellent choice for his EP title and the perfect way into the competitive world that is the music industry. The guitar was so smooth and alluring, as Bay crooned the simple, inspiring lyrics in a more strained and emotional voice. Like “Hear Your Heart,” his vocal power was there, but with an even wider range. It was another showcase of his talent, reminding me of similar successes like Ed Sheeran and James Morrison. It gave me real confidence that James Bay will only rise further.

Even though the venue was small, that wasn’t the only reason the show felt so intimate. Bay connected us not only through his songs, but in the way he talked, opening up to the crowd. He shared the stories behind two new songs, in particular. “Scars,” he said, took two years to write, and was about someone he had loved but had lost due to distance, only to be reunited with them later, and how that had impacted him. “Hold Back The River” was a song he wrote around the holidays, about missing his family but being grateful for the time they do get to spend together. It was nice to hear this human, relatable side to a musician, and to be included in the stories of his creative process.

One of my favorite things about the intimacies of a small venue manifested in the song, “When We Were On Fire,” however. The song has a distinct part that includes whistles, and it was the perfect opportunity for crowd participation. We all joined in, and that has to be one of the best feelings at a show, for fans and artists alike. There’s this unspeakable bond between us all and no one has to question it. The music just sweeps us away and you cannot help but feel happy—connected by this abstract thing and completely in the moment. Bay kept this going throughout the show, and afterwards by hanging around to meet fans, as well.

James Bay is headed back to the UK for the remainder of the summer, but will return to the States in the fall, starting at the end of September. Be sure to check out his latest EP, Let It Go, and listen to more on Spotify!


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