There are artists, and then there are ARTISTS. James Bay is the latter. All it takes is one listen to any of his recorded material and you'll know what I'm talking about, but seeing Bay live is a sincerely magical experience. His aesthetic is instantly captivating: tall and lanky, the bone structure of a Grecian statue, and clothed in timeless rock and roll garb complete with wide brimmed wool hat. His music is soulful, sensitive and moving without sacrificing catchiness. And to top it all off, he works the six strings like he was possessed by the soul-selling spirit of Robert Johnson. Ladies love him, dudes want to be him, and he's just getting started.
Lucie Silvas (above) opened up the show, treating the audience to her delicate country sensibility and oh-so-sweet vocals. She moved back and forth between the keyboard, mandolin, and her beautiful miniature blue guitar, winning the crowd over and warming everyone up for the main event.
By the time it was Bay's turn, the excitement on the floor was palpable. Everyone in the Bowery Ballroom knew that they were about to witness a mega-star perform in the infancy of his career.
The drummer came out first, grabbing the crowd's ears with an energetic beat while the rest of the crew burst onto the stage in darkness and broke into "If You Ever Want To Be In Love." Bay blasted through some sweet tracks culminating in a big, anthemic rendition of "Let It Go," before giving his band a break and serenading listeners with some solo tunes. He opened up to the crowd when he introduced "Scars," explaining that he wrote the song when a lover of his abandoned him and "Everything got real quiet."
Towards the end of the performance, audience members began screaming for "Hold Back The River," Bay's driving hit. But when he exited the stage without acquiescence, I thought it might not happen. Amidst roaring applause, however, he and his band re-appeared for an incredible three song encore. Bay belted out a life-alteringly beautiful cover of Alicia Keys' "If I Ain't Got You," closing with "Hold Back The River" and literally melting the spellbound audience.
This was one of the most beautiful performances that I've ever had the pleasure of witnessing/photographing. Enjoy the pictures and check out James' video for "Hold Back The River" below.