Woah…. Well hello James Bay.
Last week I had the immense pleasure of seeing one of my favorite new artists, James Bay, play a sold out show at the Metro in Chicago. I went into this show with a lot of excitement and very high expectations and Bay smashed all of that on the way to what is easily the best live performance I have ever seen. From beginning to end he held the crowd on every lyric, every strum of his guitar, every howl, and every smile.
Bay began his set with “Collide”, a new song from his debut album Chaos And The Calm which comprised most of his set. He moved through songs from his album as well as some older ones from past EPs and the crowd was hanging on every note, singing along with every song, and rewarding him with raucous applause in between. A clearly emotional Bay paused for a moment in the middle of his set to recognize the crowd and said “six months ago I was here opening for Hozier. I can’t believe that now this is my show.” To go from opening for Hozier with little following to playing your own sold out show on the same stage is no small accomplishment and it was evident this was not lost on him.
James Bay held an onstage presence rarely seen in an artist as new to the scene as he is. He commanded the stage and was up there jumping and dancing around and having a blast as he played, and pausing in between to take in the applause, the cheers, and a whole lot of love. He interacted with the crowd like a seasoned vet as he had the whole theater singing the chorus to “When We Were On Fire.” He showed his depth and versatility with an encore rendition of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You” which finished with a 3 minute jam session. He and his band mates looked like kids jamming and messing around in their parent’s garage, all while wearing a Chicago flag t-shirt, further cementing the crowd’s love for him.
Bay finished his pre-encore set with “Get Out While You Can” and before leaving the stage he stood there for 20 seconds staring into the crowd with the biggest grin I’ve ever seen on his face, clearly in awe of all the love being thrown his way. Of all the shows I have ever been to I have never seen a crowd cheer so loudly and so passionately for any artist, and I’ve especially never seen an artist show so much appreciation of that love. James Bay was already one of my favorite artists going into this show, but after seeing him perform he has established himself as one of my favorite people as well. So talented, so pure, so genuine.
James Bay, you are truly remarkable. Thank you for sharing your genius with the world. Your set at Lollapalooza can’t come soon enough.