Review: James Bay at The Pyramids, Southsea

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The Darkness. Picture by

Simon Emmett

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Anticipation and media hype for musical artists is nothing new, but for the recent critic’s choice Brit Award winner, James Bay is the real deal; a dead cert, bona fide troubadour extraordinaire.

His recent debut No 1 album ‘Chaos & the Calm’ seems to sum up the extraordinary journey from Brighton open mike nights to headlining his first sold-out nationwide UK tour.

Wearing his trademark wide brimmed hat like a musical vagabond on a vintage lit stage, Bay and his band launched into the raucous ballsy opening track ‘Collide’. It sets the tempo for the next hour for an emotionally engaging performance demonstrating a wide spectrum of influences.

Bay balanced with ease high tempo soulful Stevie Wonder-esque tracks ‘When We Were On Fire’ and ‘Best Fake Smile’, together with more stripped down tunes like ‘Craving’.

His songs speak of honesty, and of real feelings which resonate with the fans. Highlights included the intimate acoustic sing-along single ‘Let It Go’, whilst ‘Scars’ written over a two year period, deals with the emotional breakup and later reunion of a relationship.

However even Bay seemed pleasantly surprised when the crowd join him in a rousing rendition of ‘Running’ the only non album EP track of the night.

The encore when it came though was only going to be about one song; ‘Hold Back The River’. It is a slow burning affecting anthem that ebbs and soars on Bay’s soothing voice and builds to a dramatic climax.

Then amongst the bows, applause and adulation James Bay is gone, a man in a hat lost in the crowd. He is an unassuming yet authentic musician, wearing a maturity beyond his young years.

It is a narrative that summarises Bay’s greatest hit to date which talks of the need to try and keep his loved ones close amidst the chaos of his new found fame. A revealing sentiment perhaps, but judging by the audience’s reaction on last night opening gig, one that he will have to get used to for the foreseeable future.

His songs speak of honesty, and of real feelings which resonate with the fans.