James Bay is blowing up faster than any artist right now in the UK. Following in the footsteps of similar male singer songwriters like George Ezra and Hozier, Bay – after covering for an absent Lana Del Rey in the Radio 1 Live Lounge – soured straight into the public eye and is going strong. His sold out show at Manchester Academy 3 tonight is an exclusive glimpse into his popularity and success in a tiny venue as he is already set to play Manchester’s Albert Hall in March which holds over 1500 more people, quite an impressive leap.
Port Isla support Bay on the first leg of his sold out tour tonight. These 4 Norwich lads perform as well as ever, high energy and desire to play a great show and entertain their fans. Many of the crowd including myself are clearly already aware of the music of Port Isla, singing along to songs like ‘Steamroller’ and ‘Better Love’. I picture Port Isla as a rockier Kodaline, they both make forms of indie folk and produce heavenly harmonies together – but Port Isla just have that added edginess that leaves me very excited to see what will come when they release their first full length record.
Bay enters to a chorus of screaming girls as he pops his head out from side of stage, and the occasional “I love you James!” which is just to be expected now. His head his adorned with his trademark big hat accompanied by his long, brown hair. I imagine Bay to be one of the only artists to take a hat box on tour, except maybe Pharrell or The Edge. Moving on, Bay is accompanied by his full band tonight which is always nice to see (and hear) – added guitar and drums totally rejuvenates these songs and brings them even more to life. Further tracks like ‘When We Were On Fire’ are improved with additional organ synths to put the icing on the cake, which in this case, is an excellent song. The gravelly tone of Bay’s powerful voice cuts through all other sound like a knife.
The nicest part of the evening was easily Bay performing his hit single ‘Let It Go’. The delicate finger picking and minor inflections on guitar set up a wonderfully melancholic effect and this had an incredibly calming and powerful effect on the audience, everyone paid attention, all eyes were on him. I usually get annoyed when I can hear everyone around me singing louder than the performer, but everyone singing emulated the passion that James portrays himself, everyone felt the emotion in the song as though it was their own. I could see it in their faces; it was genuinely a lovely moment. The crowd sang the last chorus alone while Bay continues to play guitar, happy in the knowledge that people love his music with a huge grin on his face. Although it’s not top popularity in song titles named ‘Let It Go’ (damn Disney), that won’t stop James Bay from conquering with his beautiful and stunning new music.