English singer-songwriter and guitarist James Bay has had an incredible couple of years. From being signed to Republic Records and releasing his first EPs in 2013 and selling out his first UK headline tour just a year later, to releasing his chart-topping debut album Chaos and the Calm and opening up for Taylor Swift for select European dates on her recent 1989 tour.
And 2016 continues to reap rewards on Britain’s new golden boy who won Best British Male Solo Artist at the recent 2016 Brit Awards, which saw the 25-year-old sharing the stage with Justin Bieber in a tact similar to that where members of Queens of the Stone Age and Incubus provided the back-up band to Bieber at the Grammys.
Following a run of shows across Europe, Bay returned to the UK for the first of a massive sold out four-night residency at Hammersmith’s Apollo venue. Appearing on stage behind a huge white curtain, his now famous fedora hat-wearing figure producing a dramatic silhouette, he kicked off his 90-minute set with Collide to screams from a very female-biased front row.
Chaos and the Calm’s Craving was next, the West London crowd singing along with every word as Bay stepped out from behind his microphone at every opportunity to get closer to his audience, adding the extra energy to his performance necessary to carry such a huge headline solo show.
“Hammersmith how are you doing?” He screamed. “Looking beautiful people, in this beautiful room”, he added. “Are you going to be singing out, or what?”
Although the Hitchin native was barely solo, flanked by a guitarist on his left and bass player on his right, drums behind and a four-piece female vocal backup, who added a gospel sound to tracks such as When We Were On Fire for which he put down his signature Epiphone Century electric guitar, trading it in for an acoustic.
Bay made it through the entirety of Chaos and the Calm during his set and even found space to squeeze in Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Proud Mary during his three-song encore which was rounded out with hit single Hold Back The River.
It’s clear to see just why Bay has the mass appeal that he does, the youthful-faced everyman with guitar and songwriting skills far beyond his years exudes a confidence and determination that leads you to believe that this is only the beginning. And so, while screaming girls may have disproportionately made up the front row, there was a good cross-section demographic making up the rest of the Hammersmith Apollo audience.
Following three more nights at the Hammersmith Apollo, James Bay returns to the US next for the double weekender Coachella Festival followed by shows in the Pacific Northwest before he tackles a plethora of festival dates across Europe, the UK and Japan.
Live review of James Bay @ Hammersmith Apollo by Kalpesh Patel on 29th March 2016.
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Kalpesh has more music photography up on his flickr stream here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/somethingforkate