On Wednesday night, award-winning singer/songwriter James Bay achieved a feat new musicians touring Australia all aim to accomplish, selling out the iconic Metro Theatre.
The Sydney venue was packed to capacity as a rowdy Australian crowd waited impatiently for James Bay to join his keyboardist/guitarist, bass player, and drummer on stage.
The spindly artist took to the set, placing the bar for the rest of the night high with his attitude-driven, “Collide.” It is with songs such as this and “When We Were On Fire” that James Bay really came to life on stage, offering the audience a requisite energy to feed off of whilst outfitted in a perfectly balanced hat.
In between songs, it was clear that the singer, while confident, appeared somewhat floored by the size and presence of the audience, despite having toured with Hozier and Taylor Swift respectively. While this and his mumbled, English-accented anecdotes told beneath brim and hair were admittedly incredibly charming, (the high-pitched female squeals even one escaped accented-syllable could inspire was astounding) they were also arguably Bay’s only weakness.
During several songs, including “Need the Sun to Break” and “Incomplete”, the audience seemed to grow restless and as the show went on, it became more and more clear that at least half of the crowd had only bought their ticket having heard Bay’s immersive single, “Hold Back The River”. This became most apparent during a guitar solo amidst an Alicia Keys cover encore, when it was obvious the distracted audience just wasn’t ‘getting it’. For some songs though, Bay managed to captivate with ease. During, for example, “Move Together” and the popular “Let It Go”, Bay had the crowd singing filler and swaying in mesmerised tandem. Closing with his triple-platinum hit, “Hold Back the River”, Bay managed to end the show on a high note. He simply requires energetic consistency and perhaps a re-thought set list.
Still, what Bay currently lacks in maturity necessary to command and continuously engage an audience of Metro’s size and demeanour, he makes up for in sheer talent. Bay is one of those rare creatures who sounds unquestionably better live than recorded, with a voice unwavering and guitar licks to match. I believe the female members of the crowd would feel I’m doing the artist a gross disservice by not also pointing out that the man is seriously pretty.
Overall, James Bay has the potential to be one of the best organic live acts around, if only he learns how to tame a large audience. I have a feeling by the time he returns for his 2016 Australian tour, he will have.