James Bay at the Hammersmith Apollo
Not even the lashing rain of Storm Katie could dampen the excitement of the audience awaiting James Bay, the breakthrough artist of 2015. The singer continued his sold-out nationwide tour of debut album Chaos and the Calm at the Hammersmith Apollo last night.
In his own words, Bay tries “to make songs that make people feel something”; if the atmosphere of last night’s gig was anything to go by, he has struck that chord perfectly, allowing a mesmerising note of nostalgia to run throughout his set. Bay is one of those rare artists who actually manages to makes the spine tingle.
The silhouette from his characteristic black hat cut across the stage as the first tracks crashed around the arena. Collide followed by Craving transformed the crowd into a mass of moving bodies, frantically grabbing each other to sing to. Bay knows his audience and plays to the inevitable role his music occupies for many couples. Performing a fantastic cover of Elvis Presley’s Can’t Help Falling in Love with You, he challenged the crowd to throw their arms around the ones they love. Showcasing his musical prowess with a cryptic but recognisable cover of Alicia Keys, Bay proved his talent as a singer-songwriter is challenged only by his ability as a guitarist.
Without pausing, he bounced into his earlier classics, allowing Best Fake Smile to invigorate the crowd who returned his lyrics back to him. He may flit between soul, folk and pop, but whatever the tempo, Bay’s crowd hung on his every beat.
The first and only break of his setlist was for his three-song encore, opening with one for the die-hard fans from his first EP, Clocks Go Forward. Born as a busker, at only 25 years old, Bay has firmly instated himself into the world of music, the crowd at the Apollo representative of his legions of fans from all walks of life. With his first studio album spending over 25 weeks in the top 20, it is unsurprising this tour is sold out, leaving only the question: what will he do next?
Photo: Dena Flows
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Watch the video for Best Fake Smile here: