British singer-songwriter James Bay returned to the States this March for a brief headline tour in support of his second full length album, ‘Electric Light.’ Bay is no stranger to the touring circuit of The United States as he has put in support slots for Ed Sheeran, Hozier, Taylor Swift & more over the years but this current headline tour allowed him to grow as a rising star in the alternative world. The 20 date tour brought James Bay to the District of Columbia on Friday, March 8 for a show at the relatively brand new Anthem in the Wharf section of the city on a rainy late winter night.
The line wrapped around the boardwalk as fans waited diligently for doors to open so they could secure their spot close to the stage and with any luck, close to James Bay as well. By 8PM the venue was packed with fans of all ages and types – Bay’s diverse, yet relatable song writing brought together an incredibly unique crowd on a Friday night all with the hope of seeing this rising star perform in DC at last. The tour was set to take place in late 2018 but was postponed until 2019 so fans were dying to see Bay perform the new material, as well as hear their favorites from his 2014 debut record ‘Chaos and The Calm.’
Across a set that spanned 15 songs Bay told the packed crowd of The Anthem a story through both his lyrics and guitar mastery during the set. Not surprisingly Bay lived up to (and well exceeded) much of the hype around his live performances as he transformed many of his studio songs into truly polished live renditions. The set focused heavily on spotlighting Bay’s powerful voice but was always heavily loaded with some of his more lively/dancier tracks like “Pink Lemonade” and “Craving” – which were the first two songs of the evening. Whether it was a belting chorus or a slower song Bay kept the crowd singing a long and emotionally engaged through out the night.
Bay is often compared unfairly to other singer-songwriters but his sound has become very much his own and deserves to stand on its own without comparison as it did on the ‘Electric Light’ tour. New songs “Us” and “Wild Love” showed the music growth of Bay since his debut album and the more experimental tracks came to life in The Anthem as a room of fans sang the rolling lyrics back to Bay. The set ended almost as expected as Bay ran through some of the songs that helped make him a house hold name here in the States with “Let it Go” and “Hold Back The River” getting the crowd into a true frenzy but Bay had a surprise for the crowd as he ripped out a powerful cover of The Beatles “Come Together” that further showcased his artistry.
James Bay put on a fantastic show at The Anthem and has truly come into his own as both an artist and a headliner. His journey to this point in his career hasn’t been overnight as his breakthrough was but there is no denying that true artsy has prevailed as his fan base continues to grow. Two albums in and James Bay is headlining The Anthem – three albums in might just seem him in sold out arenas nationwide. One thing is for sure, his fans will be there signing along to every song in his set.