House of Blues
There are few artists who keep the wind beneath their wings once they take flight, but for some, that momentum is sustained throughout their careers. British singer-songwriter James Bay is certainly proving to be the latter, despite stemming from his humble roots in the quiet old town of Hitchin, Hertfordshire. Recent recipient of the Brit Awards for “Critics’ Choice” and runner-up for MTV’s Video Music Awards’ “Artist to Watch”, this 25 year-old composer is certainly going places at an ever accelerating pace, with no indication of deterring. We were fortunate enough to catch wind of his tour here in Dallas backing his debut album, ‘Chaos And The Calm,’ and we were exceedingly pleased to discover that this rising-star’s stage routine lives up to every ounce of the hype. With jackrabbit style intensity, charcoal tinted skinny-jeans, and his iconic extended-brim fedora atop his mane of auburn tresses, Bay makes his entry onto the House of Blues platform, agilely wielding a crimson bass guitar. As the stage illuminates, a caricature-esque rendition of himself is plastered across the backdrop, along with the entertainer’s name in prominent lettering, gilded from the incandescent light affixtures. The singer’s lean frame is heavily juxtaposed by his throaty, booming vocals that reverberate throughout the halls, unveiled handsomely during his opening to the soulfully buoyant tune, “Collide”. He struts along the stage perimeter, strumming passionately as he transitions into the lofty sounds of “Craving,” next into the hallowing, upbeat tempo of, “When We Were On Fire,” the crowd becoming increasingly enthralled with each melody.
“They told me not to come to Dallas on a Monday night,” Bay scoffs in his adorable accent as he addresses the now hushed crowd, playfully twanging his guitar, a dimpled-grin across his countenance. “I told them whatever, we’re gonna have fun no matter what day of the week it is!” The crowd erupts into cheers and the entertainer’s energy reboots full-throttle, developing the set with more cuts from his recent composition, the drummer, bassist, and pianist playing in tandem with identical vivacity. He momentarily pauses throughout the night to tell tales and quips about his prior on-road experiences, illuminating his witty sense of humor.
Soon, the crowd becomes silent as the musician switches out guitars. He thrums the instrument, first slowly, then builds up into the distinctively recognizable intro of the hit ballad, “Let It Go,” the crowd instantaneously filling in the words without beckoning. Indeed, the venue in its entirety chimed in for this number, surging Bay’s ardor trifold. Suddenly, he tones it down a bit once more for an ephemeral guitar solo. He takes a more idyllic tone for his score entitled, “Scars,” and the audience by this time is completely captivated, all eyes fixated upon the vocalist throughout, moreso as he revs into a soulful execution for the outro significant to this vibrant song. The band members and Bay even go so far as to treat the onlookers with a miniature jam session, the familiarity of which suggestive of such an occurrence typically happening on a much smaller, more personal scale privately amongst the musicians, perhaps in studio, a thought presumed after watching the group huddle in close like brothers, composing an oh-so-perfect rendering of Alicia Keys’s, “If I Ain’t Got You”. It was as if the audience was witnessing exclusive behind-the-scenes footage in real life.
“Get Out While You Can,” a fearless record about running free and escaping adversities, is Bay’s closing selection for the evening. For a final time, the band and frontman gear up to high-octane levels befitting to the song’s carefree lyrics. Couples and best friends shake to the infectious rhythm, Bay egging them on to dance harder and sing louder before finally bidding farewell. One can’t help but adore the composer’s charm, and the chiseled features definitely don’t hurt, either. His velvety vocals and wit were enough to capture even more hearts that night than what he’d entered with, and his onstage presence is addictively entertaining. We’re heavily anticipating whatever this newcomer has on the horizon as he blasts forth into his career, considering he’s already heralded numerous praises internationally and here in the States. His live performance is an overall emotively palpable experience, as you’ll be in touch with sentiments ranging from heartache to ecstasy in a matter of sheer moments. We look forward to catching this gem of an artist again in Dallas!