Now, when I went to see James Bay
at Radio City Music Hall last Friday, I knew he had become somewhat of a heartthrob to his substantial fan base since his 2015 album Chaos and the Calm
. Furthermore, I knew him as the guy with the endless combinations of boots, skinny jeans, jackets, t-shirts, and wide-brimmed hats. All jokes aside, I really knew him as a talented indie singer-songwriter with a damn fine voice and a knack for heartbreaking lyrics. But let me tell you, I had no idea
how much the fans love this guy.
Bay came out with high energy from the start, jumping right into lively renditions of "Collide" and "Craving," which got the entire crowd out of their red plush seats and on their feet. He then switched to an acoustic guitar for a much quieter "If You Ever Want to Be in Love," which included an undeniably charming plea for the crowd to sing the chorus with just him and his guitar. This is how it began. In the fleeting moments when I was not captivated by Bay's charisma and energy, I was able to observe the effect this man had on those around me. Here's what I saw and heard:
A steady loop of "oh my God" and "yass" began directly behind me, becoming the backing track to the rest of the performance. Developments on this later.
During "Let it Go," one of Bay's best-known songs, an over-enthusiastic guy in front of me belted out a quick "YEAH! Get 'em, James!" You would have thought this man had gone up and cut Bay's guitar strings and then personally slapped each and every fan in our vicinity, judging by the looks he got. He was less outspoken after that point, but don't worry, his excited-toddler dancing remained strong.
Countless vertical videos were taken. My condolences to those who had to watch these videos later on.
The collective noise of thumbs on iPhones tapping out 'omg James BAE *heart-eyes emoji*' on Snapchats taken with Radio City's filter created just for James Bay
almost outdid the music.
A white glow started growing behind me, eventually lighting up the entirety of the hall. I turned around to realize it was the entire
crowd holding up their phone flashlights. The one lady who tried to go old-school with a lighter was quickly scolded by security.
James Bay left the stage without having played "Hold Back the River" - as if any of us were about to believe that he was going to forget that one - so we knew we were in for a good encore.
When Bay came back out, not one person had mistakenly left. No one had even sat down, and most people hadn't stopped cheering. Bay, with a sly shrug, said something along the lines of "I don't know New York, I'm running out of ideas." He did make us wait, first bringing out Joseph, who opened the show with their beautiful minimalist harmonies. With Joseph singing backup, Bay and his band charged into an interesting, inspired cover of "Piece of My Heart" as made famous by Janis Joplin.
As the cover came to a close, Bay jumped into an instrumental jam, thrashing his guitar and slowly walking up the stairs to a small platform on stage. Back turned to the crowd, he stopped at the top, planting his feet in a wide stance. And then, the beginning riff of "Hold Back the River" hit us, quiet at first. As it grew, the women behind me quickly conferred on what had just happened. What I heard, verbatim, was this:
"I think I just had an orgasm."
"Hold Back the River" was, needless to say, the peak of the energy. Coming up on two years since its release, the platinum single has not lost any of its magic to Bay's fans. Evidently, the magic has only grown to create a truly tangible passion in his fans.
Bay did not disappoint live, lighting up the stage with charm, with a driven guitar, and with a slight grit in his croon that echoed nicely in the expanse of Radio City Music Hall. When the energy and devotion of an artist comes through as clearly as it does for James Bay, it is no wonder that fans' reactions are so strong and *cough* unique.
P.S. Congratulations to the soon-to-be mother. I guess we'll be hearing James Bay's take on "Billie Jean" soon enough.
Our James Bay Interview