James Bay Claims The Stage At London's Eventim Apollo
What a difference a year makes. On this very month in 2015 I was witnessing James Bay - who was on the cusp of releasing his debut album - play the intimate Leadmill venue in Sheffield. Fast forward to Spring of this year and Bay (now boasting a number one album and over 200 million music video views across his Vevo channel) is playing four consecutive nights at London’s majestic Eventim Apollo.
With so much having happened in Bay’s career since last seeing him play - and with the grade II* listed, 9,000 capacity Apollo being such a stark contrast to the modest Sheffield venue where I last witnessed his talent - I had no idea what to expect from the gig. But it didn’t take long into the show for me to realise that Bay was finally in his element, playing the stage that he deserves.
It was a very polished performance and set up, in the sense that one felt less like they were at a sweaty rock gig and more as if they were witnessing one of the greats take stage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Bay’s clear vocals and smooth guitar playing, the three synchronized backing singers at the back of the stage, and the backdrop which altered between various imaginings of a star-spangled sky all exemplified this.
And this refined set-up complimented Bay perfectly, accentuating his goosebump-inducing voice, talented musicianship and emotive delivery, along with his flair as a performer which merged it all together.
The crowd soaked in every second of the show - immersing themselves in every note of each song - evident by the electric atmosphere in the room. The applause that followed Bay’s movingly sentimental ballad ‘Let It Go’ went on longer than any I had ever witnessed at any gig. And as the night went on his more upbeat numbers increasingly prompted more and more of my fellow Upper Circle audience members to get up and dance, forgetting their comfy, velvet seats.
Bay added little nuances here and there in-between songs, an example being a soft solo instrumental version of Elvis’ ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’, which the audience sang along to with sentiment. These interludes fitted seamlessly into the set and added extra poignancy to the night.
After the encore, Bay encouraged the audience to sway lit up phones in the air as he played final ballad of the night, ‘Incomplete’. The result was magnificent as the darkened venue transformed into a starry sky - now both off stage and on.
Bay ensured the night ended on a high note by blasting out hit single ‘Hold Back The River’ as the final song. And after finally thanking the enthusiastic London crowd for a great night and disappearing into blackness, he soon strode back on stage to pick up something he had left behind. And on his return he nonchalantly threw his signature hat into the audience, before cooly strolling back off stage again. An apt ending to an effortlessly suave 90 minute musical performance.