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Review and photos by Mary AndrewsEnglish singer, songwriter and guitarist, James Bay, is on his first headlining tour of the United States. 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.
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 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 tasty 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.
Most of the tunes 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 throughout the show ands his command of his instruments displayed a powerful range.
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 or more like the Tina Turner rendition. It was obvious that James has an appreciation for the old and new. James could rock out with abandon and then on the turn of a dime sing a tender ballad.
James' popularity has exploded in England and Europe. He received the 2015 Brit Awards "Critics' Choice" award. After seeing the show, it is safe to say that James Bay is capturing America's heart and is on his way to the stratosphere of music stardom. Not bad for a kid from a small town called Hitchin, in the UK.
3. When We Were on Fire
4. If You Ever Want to Be in Love
5. Need the Sun to Break
7. Let It Go
9. Move Together
10. Best Fake Smile
11. Get Out While You Can
14. Proud Mary
(Creedence Clearwater Revival cover)
15. Hold Back the River
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