Last night, I had an amazing time at James Bay’s very first concert of his 2018 US tour at The Showbox in downtown Seattle. Twenty-seven year old British rocker Bay is one of my favorite artists, so I’d been anticipating this show with excitement for weeks.
I first heard Bay’s music in the fall of 2015 when I had my TV on the adult alternative music channel. I was crossing through my living room when the opening chords of “Hold Back the River” stopped me in my tracks. I thought, Wow, that’s beautiful. And then I heard his voice which is melodic with a little bit of rasp and a whole lot of soul. I lay down on the living room floor, flat on my back with my eyes on the ceiling, and I fell in love with it. I immediately bought Bay’s debut album Chaos and the Calm.
When Bay’s new single “Wild Love” was released earlier this year, I was thrilled with it from the first verse. This mid-tempo jam has his trademark poetic lyrics and soulful musical composition. The song also introduces us to the new style we’ll be hearing on his upcoming sophomore album Electric Light, releasing May 18th. Compared to Bay’s previous music, “Wild Love” is heavier on electric guitar and synthesizer sounds.
His second single “Pink Lemonade” expands even further on this electric style in an up-tempo rock song. It’s a cool song, but I’m more of a “Wild Love” girl than a “Pink Lemonade” girl. However, after listening to it many times, the song did grow on me.
Last night, I attended Bay’s concert with my husband and sister. It was a general admission show, so we stood in the sold-out crowd around the stage. We were the equivalent of about five rows back, which made for great viewing.
Bay is a fantastic live performer. He is high energy when the songs call for it, moving about the stage and playing his guitar with gusto. And when the songs have softer, stripped down moments, he is intense stillness as he showcases his pure vocal abilities. And his voice sounds amazing live.
In between almost every song, one of his roadies brought him a different guitar. I’d guess he rotated at least four different guitars throughout the show.
Bay interacted with the audience, sometimes encouraging us to sing with him, which we happily did. It was quite beautiful to hear so many voices echoing throughout the venue during songs like “Let it Go” and “If You Ever Want To Be In Love.” He played every song that I really wanted to hear, with the exception of “Incomplete.” That is one of my favorites and I would have loved to have heard it live, but with so many great songs to choose from, I guess it didn’t make the cut.
Bay expressed his excitement and gratitude many times, but he wasn’t a talker in general. He didn’t crack jokes and didn’t give us any personal stories about the songs or his songwriting process. On the one hand, I really wished he would have provided some insight into his amazing songs, but on the other hand, it was kind of cool that the show was all about the music and performance. While it can be fascinating to hear that a musician wrote a certain song on a plane ride to Montreal after his mom died and his girlfriend left him, it can change a song for you when you possess that kind of knowledge. It takes the song away from you in a sense. So in some ways, I appreciate that Bay didn’t reveal his stories behind the songs. In a day and age where it seems like so many people are oversharing every bit of their personal life on social media, I appreciate the mystique of an artist who focuses on the art above all.
Bay debuted four of his unreleased songs from the forthcoming Electric Light album:
“Wasted on Each Other” – He opened with this hard-hitting rock song that slows down for a falsetto-infused chorus.
“Us” – He introduced this as his favorite song off the new album. I loved this one! It is a mid-tempo sultry love song with a strong drumbeat. You can hear a clip of it in the video montage below.
“Slide” – This was a beautiful stripped down song set against a piano. The first half is just Bay’s voice, and the second half is a harmony of voices including his bandmates and backup singers. The song is full of words about the weight of the world and love. Sorry – I didn’t grab any footage of this one for the video montage because I felt too moved and in the moment to film it.
“Just for Tonight” – This is such a fun rock song! Check it out in the video montage.
And so now, we all must wait… another seven and a half weeks until the Electric Light album is released. Happy listening. xoxo
Hallie Shepherd is a writer, actress, and film producer. Follow her on Instagram where she celebrates the stories we tell.