JAMES Bay performed at Parklife 2015 yesterday (June 6), our entertainment reporter Nathan Salt was there to watch him…

James Bay is certainly not a new figure amongst the Quays News team having reviewed his debut album ‘Chaos and the Calm’ and also reviewed him entertaining an intimate crowd at Manchester Arndale’s HMV store to coincide with his album signing a number of months ago. This was, however, a festival and none other than Parklife – to keep it short and sweet Bay was beautifully breathtaking.

The man who wears a wizard hat like no-one else, Bay began his hour long set with album track ‘Collide’ which proved popular amongst a soon-to-be raucous crowd. Similarly to Ella Eyre, the turnout for Bay was one of the best I noted throughout the day and was marginally greater than the man headlining the same stage – Mr Ben Howard. At a festival it is all about the timing and the schedule. Bay was pitched at 6:40pm which was a rather drab time period talent wise and that ultimately played into his hands as he was the name jumping out of the schedule in the extortionately priced £7 programme lanyard (let’s just leave that there and stick to Bay’s performance).

The reason his performance falls just short of full marks was down to one song and one song only. A laid back track which is typical on his debut album was being drowned out by chatter amongst the crowd – I struggled to even pick up what track he was trying to push. He pursued but the attention spans of many had waned and he was grappling to get it back but thankfully he was able to do that with the intensity and ferocity of ‘Best Fake Smile” which had those wandering once again transfixed on the 24-year old.

Other featured tracks included ‘Get Out While You Can’, ‘Incomplete’ and ‘Let it Go’ which saw other fan favourites such as ‘Move Together’ and ‘Craving’ fall short at Parklife this year. Intertextual with Hozier, the transfixing vocal is intoxicating and beautifully elegant. Adapted for the festival demographic – a greater emphasis on intensity and geeing up the crowd “how are we feeling Manchester? – Bay has proven his versatility to Quays having covered his refined, recorded work and also the varying levels of live performances.

James Bay second image

What was wholly unexpected during his performance was a cover and none less than Alicia Keys’ ‘If I ain’t got you’ which was spine-tinglingly incredible. His talent lies in the rawness of his country-esque rasping vocal and his take on that classic Keys classic was a welcome surprise as it coerced the crowd into singing along. Bay has an infectious on-stage presence and that transcended beyond the stage and the photography pit to every corner of the ‘Big Top’ tent.

Performances of ‘Scars’ and ‘Hold Back The River’ – the track which thrust Bay into the spotlight having peaked in the charts at number two – concluded the 2015 Brit Awards “Critics Choice” winner’s musical masterclass. Nowadays the 16-25 demographic are largely navigating towards the DJ acts and deeper house vibes much like it proved at We Are FSTVL. It is, however, refreshing to soak up a performer who is so unique and confident in his sound. Those at Parklife were seeing a master craftsman at work…

Touring the globe and leaving jaws on the floor, Bay is everything British music is celebrating right now. The issue with one of his poorly selected tracks being far too quiet was a minimal blip in what was a magnificent hour of live music. It is frankly impossible to watch James Bay demonstrate his undoubtable talent in a live capacity and not be overwhelmed by the sheer musicality both vocally and instrumentally. It’s equally impossible to catch Bay without his infamous hat on…believe me I tried throughout the day!




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