James Bay Clicks With the Troubadour on His First U.S. Tour

It’s tough going for singer-songwriters. If you’re not a natural poet or have some truly unique angle, you better have one hell of a voice and a perfect live act. At this point, the guitar-toting James Bay out of Hitchin, UK, is pretty close to having the latter. With his Thursday night performance at the Troubadour in L.A., the 22-year-old delivered a charismatic little set, opening for Beth Orton with a nice mix of songs from his EP, The Dark of the Morning.

This was one of Bay’s first American live shows, and he showed an almost Taylor Swift-ian level of humility in taking the Troubadour stage, calling the venue “a dream” and offering some awkward-cute banter between songs to keep the mood light. The audience, most of whom were paired off with significant others and sipping on wine, were a calm, casual crowd. Bay’s songs offered a delight whose straightforwardness was essential to its charm.

Bay opened with “When We Were on Fire,” the trodding and soulful third track off his EP. His voice sounded studio-rich, with a rough tinge just underneath his caramel tenor. All of Bay’s songs played nice little twists on standard guitar-driven soul, but the real highlights came from the pieces that accentuated voice over melody. When he sang “Move Together,” the first single off his EP, Bay’s shining performance seemed hindered by the song’s predictability.

His closer “Collide,” on the other hand, was a brand new track that seemed to really click with the audience. With a nimble urgency, Bay wore his heart proudly on his sleeve, grunting and belting without reserve. The song’s form, like most of the others performed that night, might have sounded familiar to anyone aware of mainstream music, but it sounded really damn good, and that’s all that mattered as the audience let out applause that seemed uncharacteristically emphatic for an opening act.

After his set, Bay set up camp in the Troub’s bar area to sign copies of his CD and schmooze with guests. He was relaxed and looked genuinely happy to be in the states, answering questions and giving insight on his musical influences. Someone asked about his influences, and on his list he included Ray Charles and John Mayer. He might not be quite on the same level as Charles just yet, but with a rousing performance at the Troubadour and a promising new EP, Bay’s very own Room for Squares might not be too far off.

Josh Calixto

Josh Calixto

Josh has always been a dedicated music fan, but only started to explore deeper artists as a journalism student at Northwestern University. With no favorite genre and much love for musicians including The Sundays, Curren$y, Colin Stetson, and The Blood Brothers, he prides himself on a wide-ranging musical taste and willingness to listen to just about anything. Right now, Josh is particularly into female-fronted dreampop, energetic psych-rock, and trap music.
Josh Calixto

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