Live Review: James Bay - Roundhouse, London 29/05/2018
London's iconic Roundhouse is the setting for the opening night of tour for one of the nations most beloved and equally iconic stars, James Bay.
It's been three years since the release of his sensational debut album “Chaos And The Calm”, so the follow up album “Electric Light” has been on many peoples radars for some time. Understandably, with the new release, many people were taken aback by the change in image and musical direction, but guess what? People turned on Bob Dylan for going electric and look how that turned out...
Tonight was another masterclass performance by the 27 year old, who honed his craft playing open mic nights in Brighton almost ten years ago. Whether Bay is playing solo on stage with an acoustic guitar or with a full electric band, backing singers and LED screens, the outcome will always be the same “flawless”.
After a short video intro which accompanies the album, Bay confidently struts out on stage in jaw dropping tight silver trousers and a more reserved black t-shirt. It's like he wants to tare up all preconceptions that you may have about him and form an opinion at that moment in time. This is a man that does not want to be an average musician. After all, there is nothing worse than being ordinary. He kicks of the “Electric Light Tour” with the opening song from the album, “Wasted On Each Other” and the rock infused “Pink Lemonade” before steering it back to more familiar territory with “Craving, taken from the debut album. Not only did the silver trousers catch my eye but Bay changes guitars like Rita Ora changes outfits. In only the opening four tracks he switches between his favourite Epihones, including his customized 1966 Epiphone Century, as well as his Frank Brothers Signature Model. I was in my element, being serenaded by a handsome man in a fetching outfit who knows a thing or two about guitars.
Throughout the ninety minute set we are treated to the best he has to offer, oh and not being content with changing guitars, he changes into more sensible outfit, black jeans and red T-shirt. It was an almost perfect setlist... With “If You Ever Want To Be In Love”, “When We Were On Fire” and “Wild Love” receiving huge applause and unending sing-alongs from the crowd. After the debut live performance of “Sugar Drunk High”, we progressed to the moving and emotionally charged ballads of “Us”, “Slide” and his breakthrough track “Let It Go”. I hugged my best friend and told her I love her, that's the power music can harness.
With the tears wiped away the songs became more upbeat as he broke out the bug guns “Just For Tonight”, “Best Fake Smile” and the one song that even life on Mars will have heard off, “Hold Back The River”. The smiles were beaming from every corner of the room (yes I know the venue is a round-house, but you know what I mean). Bay's trademark dimples could be seen smiling right back at us as he then vacates the stage ready for the encore. Bay still had another surprise in store as he walks back out to cheers from the crowd, he breaks out into a rather unforgettable rendition of “Simply The Best” by Bonnie Tyler (made famous by Tina Turner). One song I would not have thought would even be on his radar, let alone performing on tour to thousands. With one song left, the night is brought to a gentle close with the swoon inducing “Need The Sun To Break”.
As I mentioned earlier, the setlist was almost perfect, the night was almost perfect. I loved every song on the list, but I was left disillusioned at the absence of “Scars”. It is a beautiful song, with a simple arrangement, the lyrics are amongst his finest and his voice takes centre stage, so it was such a shame it was missed off on this occasion. Honestly though, I couldn't stay disappointed for long, it was a pleasure to spend my night being serenaded by a brilliant musician, and there was nowhere else I would have rather been.
Words and Photography by Rachel Prew