James Bay with Noah Kahan at Doug Mitchel Thunderbird Arena, 3/31/19
Not many things get to top off a sunny Vancouver day, but if there’s a James Bay concert at the end of it, you know it’s one of a kind.
At UBC’s Doug Mitchel Thunderbird Arena, the 28-year-old English singer said goodbye to March alongside the Vancouver crowd over a mildly crisp Sunday night.
The name James Bay began to make headlines in early 2014, shortly after the release of his two most popular singles “Hold Back the River” and “Let it Go.” Today, only four years after recording his debut album Chaos and the Calm, it’s stunning to realize how far he’s come in such a short period of time.
The thrill of the night began with Noah Kahan, Bay’s opening act, who proved himself able to set the standards high.
The elements embellishing the stage during Bay’s set managed to defy expectations without failing to evoke the feelings embedded in his songs. The fact that “Pink Lemonade” was accompanied by striking blue lights instead of pink was somewhat surprising, but the bold magenta illuminating the background during “Wild Love” and “If You Ever Wanna Be In love” is most certainly the color that transcends such lyrics. “Wild Love” was definitely one of the repertoire’s highlights, blending the lights, crispy beats, and lingering vocals into one candid inflection that echoed like in some deep cave.
During “Us,” an interesting interplay of platinum lights swayed from front to back as if highlighting the inherent duality of any loving relationship. Perhaps the alternation of these colors on stage mirrors the spectrum of emotional states described throughout the artist’s songs, making him one of the few singers whose songs fit into multiple moody playlists.
Halfway through the concert came the song the crows couldn’t wait for: “Let it Go,” which promptly turned into a multiple-voice medley of fans in all sections of the venue. It’s hard to describe how deeply moving it was.
When introducing a new song, the screaming audience hardly held their breath: “This is a brand new song so you don’t know it and the best part is that if I fuck up, you won’t know either!” His new piece is titled “Bad,” and it describes the pain of trying to keep a broken love alive. Bay then reversed the energy completely by covering The Beatles’ “Come Together” with such blasting sounds, they left a rocking aftertaste.
The singer’s band got a well-deserved standing ovation too. The tuneful piano riff, deep bass, and pitchy guitars stood out through certain parts of several songs and achieved what the tour promised to do: electrify the crowd. While favorites like “Need the Sun to Break” and “Scars” missed the queue, the Vancouver set list included about 15 songs in the span of 90 minutes. It’s a shame they can’t get this electricity on a weekly basis. It would sure make it easier to get through university, work, and just life in general. Audiences crave wild concerts like Bay’s. The kind that never slow down.