An hour away from the vast swathes of suburbs in London, at a point where you would expect to see puddles occupying concrete pathways and instead see the green fields of the countryside, you’ll find Hitchin, hometown of singer-songwriter James Bay.
It’s this kind of town that grows the very best kind of British vocalist, singers and songwriters grounded by melodic truth and raw emotion.
Fresh from Falls Festival, artist Hein Cooper gave an impressive support set, with only a guitar and a loop pedal. Playing songs from his new album,The Art of Escape, and also adding his most notable song, Rusty, he gave us an eccentric mix of indie and pop music using his emotional lyrics and an acoustic guitar bursting with character. He also revealed hints of his beginnings in folk music but blending with his newer, more modern styles and feelings.
Olivia McCarthy known as JOY left the crowd in awe with her ethereal, dreamy vocals.
Against a fluorescent pink screen figures of instruments emerged as the grand piano break, the jittering flourishes of percussion, the cut-up vocals and the cloudy synths mesmerized the crowd. The local Brisbane artist left her hometown hypnotized from the electric synths, with another outstanding support set.
At the beginning of the show, Bay appeared from behind a floor-to-ceiling white sheet which provided as the backing for his towering silhouette as he turned to face the many Brisbanites that had turned up wearing his signature hat. From the moment when he launched into his less familiar song, Collide, he had the audience in the palm of his hand like an experienced professional.
James Bay showed us that he’s not pigeon-holed into one style, as many would assume and who have now missed out on a top-shelf performance because of their prejudices.
Unlike a 25-year-old man with one album launched less than 12 months ago, he showed story-telling maturity which won over even the hardest of hearts. More importantly, he gave us everything he had. Maybe it’s old-fashioned thinking, but there’s little else quite as musically satisfying as a truly talented performer with their guitar.