By Megan Blackwell
Artist: James Bay
Date / Venue: Tuesday February 9th, 2016 - Town Hall, Auckland
When I put up my hand to cover this gig I went into it thinking it’d be a chill concert most likely populated by couples out for an early Valentine’s. I was sorely mistaken. The best way to describe the concert is in the name of the tour - Chaos and the Calm.
At a glance, the crowd crammed into Auckland Town Hall was a combination of girls out in force for a good time and a few sceptical looking boyfriends. Before long there was a brilliant swell of screams and clapping. Bay appeared in a black t-shirt, faded skinny jeans, rugged boots and his trademark fedora.
The show kicked off with Bay snarling and stamping out Collide. I immediately felt totally immersed in the energy of his performance and the enthusiasm coming from the crowd. Bay clearly already has a strong following here in New Zealand after less than a year since releasing his debut album - not bad for a 25 year old kid from Hitchin. With each song the crowd screamed with recognition and sang along with every word. The upside to a predominantly female audience is the crowds’ back up singing sounds absolutely amazing.
The bluesy chords resonating from Bay as he eases into Running are chilling. I’m totally hanging on every note as his dusty voice fills the muggy venue. Next thing I know the crowd erupts into roaring frenzy over the intro to hit song Let it Go. With magenta lights pouring over him - Bay is the epitome of cool. When he breaks off into a casual guitar solo it feels like we’ve walked into a private jam session. He leisurely builds into Scars - good god, I practically melted from sheer relaxation at his warm and husky voice. The power behind his belted lyrics is a fantastic combination of raw talent and refined skills.
The crowd is in the palm of his hand when he finally says “hi” to us in the clouds and double checks we’re on form. As everyone sways to Move Together he exclaims, “Yes, Auckland, yes!” with utter elation - and it is damn sexy. He builds a beautiful back and forth with the audience before changing the mood up with a more pop-rock song Best Fake Smile. He keeps the room on a high with a perfectly raspy, rocky rendition of Get Out While You Still Can.
Naturally, the call for an encore surges with screams, and rolling waves of clapping and stamping. The crowd’s chanting for “James” is answered when the band swagger back on stage with Bay wrapped in a silver fern flag. What an encore it was! Incomplete felt like a beautiful way of Bay reaching out to the audience as he comes to the end of his tour. We were then treated to a cover of classic Proud Mary as Bay totally rocked out - knees buckling and twisting; and kicks higher than you’d think those skinny jeans would let him. He egged the crowd on, barely any bums still in seats, as he finally closed on his hit Hold Back the River. I left the show feeling completely exhilarate.
I’ve been loving the trend of unassuming looking artists possessing larger than life voices. I’d say James Bay is comparable to the likes of George Ezra and Hozier. You can definitely hear Bay’s rock, indie and folk roots come together in his soulful voice. I have officially converted to being a full fledged James Bay fangirl. Definitely look forward to his next visit to New Zealand.
When we were on Fire
If You Ever Want to be in Love
Need the Sun to Break
Let It Go
Best Fake Smile
Get Out While You Can
Hold Back the River