James Bay at Omeara
“I’m a big fan of this venue,” said James Bay as he stood on a nigh-on empty Omeara stage. A rustic, 320-person capacity space with a small, proscenium arch stage seemed somewhat inappropriate for one of the biggest and brightest new stars of British pop-rock. This is a man who has toured with Taylor Swift, collaborated with Alicia Keys, been nominated for three Grammys and whose debut album peaked at number one.
But, that seemed to be very much the point. “I’m here to play some old songs and some new songs,” he said coolly before adding, “at a sensible acoustic level.” Bay seemed to be purposefully underplaying the amount of star power and credibility he has amassed over the last few years, choosing to perform with no more than one accompanying instrument at a time, and letting his voice speak for itself.
And that voice. It’s hard not to oversell just how good his voice was. He possesses so much power, and clarity and conviction. He filled the room with breathless ease and had his audience swooning with every belt, hair flick and flash of dimple.
Admittedly, the set had its lulls. There was a marked difference between his older and newer material. This is in part due to the crowd’s reaction to the more familiar tracks. The music from his first album just seemed to have a bit more melodic variety and bounce to it. Songs like Craving, If You Ever Want to Be in Love, Let It Go and When We Were on Fire stood out, while others, without the support of a full band, seemed to blend into one slightly.
As the evening drew to a close, he humbly announced that his new album, Electric Light, had just reached number two in the official chart: “This is chapter two of many, many chapters and I hope you’ll stay with me.”
His closing number, Hold Back the River, was a rousing moment worth sticking around for. The phones came out, the lights glared and Bay seemed moved by the feedback that reverberated throughout the room. The set finished after just under an hour, with no encore to speak of. And despite the raw sincerity of his performance, the piercing power of his voice and the undeniable quality of his songs, one was left wanting a little bit more. Maybe that was the aim.
Photos: Mike Garnell
For further information and future events visit James Bay’s website here.
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