English singer, songwriter and guitarist, James Bay, is on his first headlining tour of the United States and he made a return trip to Tucson on November 27, 2015. A lot has happened in the two years since I interviewed James Bay. He was in Tucson on his first tour in the United States opening for ZZ Ward at Hotel Congress. He had recently signed on with Universal/Republic Records and he was excited to be going to record his first album in Nashville. The result of those sessions was this year’s album release, Chaos And The Calm. The album was a critical and a commercial success. His anticipation of events to come was fresh and unspoiled and it was obvious that there was still a lot more to come for James Bay. For a link to that interview, click here.
James is a self-taught guitar player who found an old, broken down guitar in the attic at the age of 11. He proceeded to try to repair the guitar and play. A year later he was able to get a better instrument. He has been highly influenced by Eric Clapton, but he has his on style of playing. “Let It Go” is a fine example of the James Bay’s Guitar chops!
The show started with opener “Cloves,” a female singer from Melbourne, Australia. Kaity Dunstan, aka Cloves, is an alumnus of 2013’s Australian version of The Voice. She is 19 years old and she has an astounding, big voice and a fun sense of humor. She did a 35-minute set accompanied by keyboards and guitar. The songs were emotional and fragile for the most part. She joked at one point saying the next song was “more upbeat, but not really.” Her newest single, “Frail Love” was among songs performed. Watch out Lana Del Rey, Cloves may be your replacement!
James Bay and his band ferociously took the stage 15-minutes early and were ready to show Tucson what he had accomplished in two years. Bay’s energy was at high velocity and so was the sold out, predominantly teen crowd. James started the show with a peppy version of “Collide.” This is a song about a tumultuous, intense relationship.
Most of the songs in the set were from his new album and are intense songs about relationships. James’ songwriting is engaging, and relatable to the feelings of our youth. Bay’s voice displayed a perpetual ‘ache’ and soulfulness that convinced the fans that the words in his songs are authentic and true. James switched between acoustic and electric guitars during the show. Both were very effective during the show.
The crowd was able to sing every word in the set without any coaching from James. They sang the loudest during “Let It Go’ and “Hold Back The River.” Or maybe it was “If You Ever Want To Be In Love.” The fans seemed to launch into instant delirium of whoops and screams when James spoke. Actually the screams came with “Let It Go” as well.
The only cover song in the set was the CCR classic “Proud Mary.” He launched into the song like it was his own. It was obvious that James has an appreciation for the old and new. James could rock out as well sing a tender ballad. For a link to the complete set list, click here.
James’ popularity has exploded in England and Europe. He received the 2015 Brit Awards “Critics’ Choice” award. After witnessing this show, it is safe to say that James Bay has captured America’s heart and is on his way to the stratosphere of music stardom. Not bad for a young man from a small town called Hitchin, in the UK.