It was a night infused with nostalgia for James Bay, as he returned to the stage where he played his first ever headline London gig back in November 2013. At lot can happen in 3 years, including two Brit awards, 3 Grammy nominations, a Glastonbury set and a double platinum selling debut album. None of this seemed to have turned the singer’s head though. His set list virtually mirrored its 2013 predecessor, his easy humour charmed the small crowd of competition winners, and his refrain for the evening was a repeated shout-out to label Communion; champion behind his 2013 gig and whose 10th birthday we were all there to celebrate.
After kicking proceedings off with the atmospheric Craving and rousing When We Were On Fire, it was single If You Ever Want To Be In Love that really got the crowd’s vocal chords warmed up – much to Bay’s delight. Having set the scene, Bay grabbed the opportunity to play some older tracks – a spine-tingling rendition of Hear Your Heart from his 2014 Let It Go EP, and the seasonal Clocks Go Forward. Perhaps it was the relative unfamiliarity of these songs, but the buzz of the crowd stilled audibly, broken only afterwards as a admirer shouted “we love you!”, to which Bay wrily responded “it’s cool to love…”.
From here the only way for Bay was up, winding from chart favourite Let It Go, through the heartfelt strains of Scars and Move Together, to the 2015 ballad Need The Sun To Break. Even the recurrent breaking of beer glasses (ham-fisted bar staff or overexcited fans?…) couldn’t interrupt the mood.
Moving into the final act, Bay surprised the room with an electric, bluesy interpretation of The Beatles’ Something, followed by his 2013 set-closer Stealing Cars. The key to all nostalgia though, is to also celebrate the joys of the present and look to the future. Bay did that in spades, sating the crowd’s desire with the 2014 song that made his name, Hold Back The River, and leaving them with the promise that he’s going home to make some new music, but he won’t be long. Fingers crossed that’s true – I for one hope to be back at The Slaughtered Lamb in November 2019 for the next instalment…
Words by Rebecca Kay
Images by Louis Browne (Spindle Magazine)