Hitchin’s James Bay electrifies Shakespeare’s Globe in live-stream gig

PUBLISHED: 11:26 23 October 2020 | UPDATED: 11:31 23 October 2020

James Bay performed a haunting, stripped-back cover of David Bowie's Life of Mars. Picture: James Boardman

James Bay performed a haunting, stripped-back cover of David Bowie's Life of Mars. Picture: James Boardman

Archant

Back with a bang, James Bay returned to the live scene on Wednesday night (October 21) with a special streamed experience, live from Shakespeare’s Globe.

Drone footage and cameras on the ground captured the beauty of London by night, accompanied by James Bay and his band. Picture: James BoardmanDrone footage and cameras on the ground captured the beauty of London by night, accompanied by James Bay and his band. Picture: James Boardman

The hour-long performance featured 12 firm favourites from Bay’s repertoire, as well as a haunting cover of David Bowie’s Life on Mars.

Starting in ‘the hut’ – the small attic space suspended above the stage – Bay performed Scars, rich with intimate feeling, enhanced by the warm, homely nature of the seemingly small space.

A brief interlude followed, giving the Hitchin-born star time to make his way down to the main stage, where he sat – at a distance, of course – amongst his band, which featured his brother, musician Alex Francis.

He chuckled as he joined in, and slipped into Peer Pressure.

"We can hear you at home, we know you're there!" Picture: James Boardman

“It feels good!” James exclaimed. “It’s an absolute joy to have you here with us.”

At this point, it feels like you’d been invited into a band rehearsal, with clear banter between all the musicians.

Videographers wove amongst the band during Chew On My Heart and Us, capturing the effort and artistry that goes into putting on a show of this scale, but also the emptiness surrounding them.

The open air acoustics bounced around the standing area, which is more often packed like sardines. Not deterred by the lack of applause, the band paused to take in the overwhelming silence.

James Bay performed a haunting, stripped-back cover of David Bowie's Life of Mars. Picture: James BoardmanJames Bay performed a haunting, stripped-back cover of David Bowie's Life of Mars. Picture: James Boardman

Laughing off the cold, Bay spoke of his love of re-imagining and reinventing songs for live performances: “This is totally bizarre and wonderful at the same time.

“Maybe you can sing along to this one,” he said, moving into Let It Go. The cold melted away with the soft, warm glow of lights around The Globe, which radiated through the screen.

The cosy sentiment continued into If You Ever Want To Be In Love, a song which is a clear nod to his hometown of Hitchin.

The emotion at this point was evident, as he moved into a vocalised breakdown, where he put down his guitar and clapped along to the beat.

"I cannot wait to have you back in the romo with us and us be in the room with you... I'll see you soon." Picture: James Boardman

Getting up, he slowly walked down onto the theatre floor, and out into the crisp, October air.

Heading back up to the attic, he sat at an electric keyboard with only the orange hue of exposed light bulbs illuminating the space.

Break My Heart Right felt like a lullaby, and flowed straight into his Bowie cover.

Putting his own James Bay spin on it, Life on Mars had never sounded so hauntingly beautiful.

Firm favourites Let It Go and Hold Back The River were performed, with up tempo tracks like Pink Lemonade creating an electric atmosphere. Picture: James BoardmanFirm favourites Let It Go and Hold Back The River were performed, with up tempo tracks like Pink Lemonade creating an electric atmosphere. Picture: James Boardman

The band downstairs kick in with Pink Lemonade as James sauntered down to join them.

Slipping on his leather jacket, the energy of the track brought the electricity back into the venue.

Blue lights flooded The Globe, pulsing in time with the up-tempo beat – bearing true to the name of his latest album, Electric Light.

“We can hear you at home, we know you’re there!” James shouted, cutting through the ringing silence.

Firm favourites Let It Go and Hold Back The River were performed, with up tempo tracks like Pink Lemonade creating an electric atmosphere. Picture: James BoardmanFirm favourites Let It Go and Hold Back The River were performed, with up tempo tracks like Pink Lemonade creating an electric atmosphere. Picture: James Boardman

On the subject of home, next up was Craving – again, with clear ties to Hitchin. As it drew to a climactic finish, James shrugged and said: “Alright?” – as if he hadn’t just performed to thousands of people sitting at home.

The Globe glowed pink during Wild Love, with anticipation building into the upbeat intro for Best Fake Smile, where he introduced his talented band. Drone shots showed the sparkling capital at night.

After putting in a stellar performance, he sighed and exclaimed “I’m that close to cheering us myself”, clearly feeling the euphoria of performing at a venue similar to times gone by.

Wrapping up the show in a sentimental style, Hold Back The River – the song that shot Bay to fame – the euphoric feeling showed that he really had come back all guns blazing.

James Bay played a set of 13 tracks during his hour-long live-streamed gig. Picture: James BoardmanJames Bay played a set of 13 tracks during his hour-long live-streamed gig. Picture: James Boardman

He said after the show: “It was the most brilliant feeling being back on a stage with the band and having the crew there, keeping all the tools in working order. To play and almost get a sense of live music normality again has been so galvanising.

“Live entertainment is not back to where it wants to be yet, but for all the great things this show at The Globe has been, I hope it’s a stark reminder to all that live performance is never complete until there is a live audience right there, in front of the performer, in the same field, tent or four walls.

“Last night’s show was a tribute to true live entertainment, we can’t wait to have it back.”

James is performing two socially-distant live shows in London in November/December.

James Bay was backed up by a strong band, featuring his brother Alex Francis .Picture: James BoardmanJames Bay was backed up by a strong band, featuring his brother Alex Francis .Picture: James Boardman

Shakespeare's Globe came alive with light and music as James Bay and his band played their live-streamed concert there on Wednesday (October 21) Picture: James BoardmanShakespeare's Globe came alive with light and music as James Bay and his band played their live-streamed concert there on Wednesday (October 21) Picture: James Boardman

James Bay played a mixture of new releases and tracks from his early EPs. Picture: James BoardmanJames Bay played a mixture of new releases and tracks from his early EPs. Picture: James Boardman

Laughing off the cold, James and his band, which featured his brother Alex Francis, wrapped up for the chilly open-air performance. Picture: James BoardmanLaughing off the cold, James and his band, which featured his brother Alex Francis, wrapped up for the chilly open-air performance. Picture: James Boardman

James Bay utilised all the space Southbank's Globe Theatre had to offer. Picture: James BoardmanJames Bay utilised all the space Southbank's Globe Theatre had to offer. Picture: James Boardman


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