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16th June 2018

Live Review: James Bay

It really is fascinating what a change in hairstyle and fashion choice can do for your ego
Live Review: James Bay
Photo: Getty Images

James Bay returns to the UK after the release of his interesting second album Electric Light. After hearing lead singles ‘Pink Lemonade’ and ‘Wild Love’, I was certainly confused about the direction that Bay has chosen to take as a follow on from such a successful, raw and lyrically-rich debut.

Given that the industry is currently saturated in synth and electronic beats, I have absolutely no objection in Bay lending himself to experimentation. Just as everyone knows, an artist has to evolve to some extent particularly when consolidating their reputations with the tricky second album. Unfortunately, Bay hasn’t cracked it.

Having said that, there are no criticisms I can declare concerning his vocals or artistry. James Bay possesses no facade with regards to his talent. Counting the use of over three different guitars throughout an 80-minute show, Bay’s vocals resonated beautifully in an equally stunning venue at Manchester’s Albert Hall.

Bay’s voice has strengthened, and he has grown oodles of confidence as a performer since Chaos and the Calm, but I do worry this confidence is etching into the realms of cockiness. A trait I would never have imagined the man who stood on Brighton’s seafront and played ‘Clocks Go Forward’ so effortlessly, enveloping YouTube viewers in an endearing warmth and distinct yearning for love.

I take zero pleasure in making such comments about an artist that defined a large part of my 2015 alongside the likes of Hozier, but 2018 has brought an unexpected twist that I am struggling to get used to. Having said that, Bay’s performance of Us did make for a sensual, tear-prickling performance due to its slightly more stripped back production compared to its album counterparts.

It cannot go unnoticed that Bay’s performances of songs such as ‘If You Ever Want To Be In Love’, ‘Craving’ and ‘Best Fake Smile’ were undoubtedly favoured by the audience who, I have to admit, remained entirely enthusiastic throughout his set. But there was a definite aura surrounding Bay’s performance of the Chaos and the Calm treasures because quite frankly, they were exhibited with more passion and authenticity.

The glimmers of older songs with the new only starkly contrasted the sheer difference in song-writing that James Bay has concocted over the past three or so years. I can’t help but feel as though Bay isn’t being true to himself. Too much over-production, too much commercialisation and too much lack of honesty in self-reflection now perhaps frame the contemporary Hertfordshire born Bay.

I’m craving something I can feel James.


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