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Photo by Saskia Rodenburg

CityFolk Review: James Bay

By Saskia Rodenburg on September 18, 2016

James Bay, the British singer-songwriter behind debut album Chaos and the Calm rocked the City Stage at CityFolk Festival on Thursday.

Flashing white and black lights and thundering electric guitar began with his first song, “Collide.” Encouraged by roars from the audience, the black-hatted Bay and his enthusiastic band continued through two more songs before any rest.

“If You Ever Want to Be in Love” had audience participation at its max. A smiling Bay encouraged the audience through the chorus and let band members take over for a short time. Despite the slower tempo to this tune, the audience remained enthusiastic for the singer. The purple stage lighting and lights at the back provided a great backdrop for the song. 

Highlights of the night included hits “Let it Go,” “Scars” and “Running,” which featured back-lights timed the to drum beat.

The charismatic Bay continued to show support for others’ singing through “Let it Go,” saying: “Come on, sing it with me!” through the chorus.

Photo by Saskia Rodenburg

Photo by Saskia Rodenburg

After a small instrumental break, Bay launched into a moving rendition of “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” an Elvis Presley song that had young and old holding lighters and phones up while singing along. The singer graciously allowed the audience the whole song, while he played along with the band.

The soft Presley hit led into Scars, another fan favourite. Bay and his band played more heavily during the second chorus, with red and blue lights taking over the stage during a guitar solo and drumming that amped up the mood.

Finishing the night with the intense “Best Fake Smile” and enthusiastic “Get Out While You Can,” Bay and his band rocked the stage with intense guitar, drums and bass to close. Well-timed lighting added to the overall effect of the music. After a short break, the audience persuaded Bay and his band back for an encore.

Bay surprised with a rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Proud Mary.” Though only some seemed to know the tune, they enthusiastically joined the singer for this throwback track. Towards the end of the song, Bay had the audience laughing while he posed at the front of the stage, looking mockingly confused at their support.

After a long pause, Bay lit by a single spotlight on the darkened stage, began his final song, “Hold Back The River.” During the chorus, red and yellow lights became the backdrop as Bay went all out for the final number. His band members were as enthusiastic on their instruments.

Bay thanked the audience profusedly at the end of the song and assured them he would return, before bowing with his bandmates and leaving the stage together.

A night of laughs, dancing, and moving lyrics, James Bay made his Ottawa debut a night to remember.