Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Review: James Bay – O2 Academy, Brixton

As I mentioned in my most recent Sunday Brunch Post, last Friday I went to see James Bay at the O2 Academy in Brixton.

I first discovered James Bay about a year ago at the iTunes Festival as a support act, and although I really enjoyed his performance I didn’t properly start listening to him until I came across this live version of Scars. If you watch it you’ll understand why I became obsessed and why I was so keen for his album.

So when I found out that he was doing a UK tour, I didn’t think twice about booking tickets.

Annoyingly, I had a bit of a disaster and quite a stressful day on Friday and was completely exhausted with a banging headache by the time we made it to Brixton, so wasn’t in the best mood for a concert. But I still really enjoyed the night, which is a complete credit to James Bay’s performance.

I hadn’t been to the O2 Academy, Brixton before but it’s a great venue. I love the art deco interior, and the sloped floor in the standing area is always a bonus, especially when you’re 5ft2 and can never normally see anything. I’m just thinking of a friend, of course.

We arrived a little way into the first support act, Samm Henshaw’s set, but I’m glad we managed to catch some of it as it’s convinced me to give him a proper listen. His music is so chilled and he has such a soulful and uplifting voice.

I hadn’t heard of the second support act, Elle King, before so I had no idea what to expect. Woah does she have a powerful voice! I really like her style of music too, which is a kind of alternative rock with country and blues undertones.  I’m definitely going to buy her album sometime soon.

From James Bay’s entrance it was clear that this was not just going to be a concert, but a performance. The stage was concealed behind a sheet onto which his silhouette was projected whilst the music began. The sheet was slowly raised amidst flashing lights and Bay jumped down from the raised level and launched straight into Collide. I was immediately relieved that his vocals came across really crisp and clearly over the band, as this was something that wasn’t quite right the first time I saw him.

Although I knew in advance that he would sound amazing live, I hadn’t anticipated even half of his stage presence, and it was something I was continually impressed by throughout, whether it was when he was singing, during an extended guitar solo or talking to the crowd. It was an engaging performance from start to finish.

The majority of songs were accompanied with the full band behind him, but I was so happy that he began Scars, my favourite song off the album, alone, before the rest of the band kicked in about half-way through.

Despite the fact that this was Bay’s third night in the same venue, there was no sense of a repeated performance or going through the motions. The enthusiasm never faltered and his humble attitude and genuine gratitude for the crowd’s support really influenced the atmosphere in the venue.

Towards the end of the set, James Bay invited Jack Garratt to the stage for an epic cover of Alicia Key’s If I Ain’t Got You. As if the vocals of the two weren’t striking enough, the incredible guitar solo battles were possibly the highlight of the night.

Of course, the encore section ended with Hold Back the River, and both support acts along with a few others returned to the stage as a backing choir to end the night with the same dynamism that it had begun.

Have you seen James Bay live? What is the best concert you have been to recently?


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