It’s 8pm, baking hot and there’s next to no shade, but that doesn’t seem to matter to the thousands of punters who are crowded around Mad Cool’s KOKO stage. They’re of course here to see English darling James Bay, who ambles on stage comes looking just like he’s walked straight off the pages of a glossy fashion mag.
Blitzing through tracks from latest album ‘Electric Light’, Bay has the audience in the palm of his hands. His band are killer, the electronic whirs of ‘Wild Love’ are a shimmering success, and the gospel laced ‘Us’, which Bay declares as one of his new favourites, soars; but even given the top grade band, it’s Bay that you can’t take your eyes off.
Strutting across the stage and swinging his guitar, on this latest string of live dates in support of the new record Bay seems to be playing pretend as a classic rocker. His entire performance is littered with thundering riffs (at one point he has a riff-off with his guitarist), and he swaggers around the stage like an absolute pro. Although sometimes he goes overboard – “Mad Cool they say we’ve only got time for one more song but I want to play two,” Bay told the crowd to a cacophony of whoops and cheers, “Sometimes you’ve got to break the rules!” Sometimes you do, James, but you also have fifteen minutes left of your set – so you’re not really, are ya? But, despite the half-successful attempts at rock star braggadocio, Bay and his band put on a smooth show of guaranteed crowd pleasers. Pop bop ‘Best Fake Smile’ was a roaring hit with revellers, and The Strokes song that never was ‘Pink Lemonade’ sounds even better live.
Finishing with a cover of Tina Turner’s ‘The Best’, and a heavily extended version of ‘Hold Back The River’ (in which Bay needn’t have sung the chorus – due to the deafening singalong from the audience), the star sauntered off stage. It might not have been simply the best, but it was pretty damn good.