Live Review: James Bay w/ JOY. & Hein Cooper @ The Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre
It’s been a whirlwind couple of years for British musician James Bay. After released his platinum single Hold Back the River in 2014 and debut album ‘The Chaos and the Calm’ shortly thereafter, Aussie fans have been counting down the days until they could see the British rock star in the flesh. On Sunday night, it was Brisbane’s turn to do just that.
Having blown crowds away in a support slot before for Ash Grunwald at The Triffid, big things were expected from Hein Cooper. Taking to the stage with a simple white backdrop, it was just a man and his acoustic guitar. Boy was it magical. Cooper treated us to some new material from his debut album ‘Rusty’, which comes out on March 4th. For a young artist, he displayed effortless vocals that others can only dream of achieving through merciless production. Overflow was home to a falsetto even much more established musicians would lust after. For just a small town country boy, Cooper created an intriguing mix of simple acoustic tones, at times incorporating a drum pad, which showed that he is so much more than just a boy and his guitar. There’s a reason that Art of Escape was the title track of his first EP. A flawless haunting track, with hand plucked guitar created sweet melodies that rang out. The entire room was silent, cast under Cooper’s spell.
“For just a small town country boy, Cooper created an intriguing mix of simple acoustic tones, at times incorporating a drum pad, which showed that he is so much more than just a boy and his guitar.”
Brisbane local JOY. was up next. Reminiscent of a young Ellie Goulding, with red lips and long blonde hair. Kicking off the set with Crazy For You the 18 year old wandered onto the stage with a presence that would immediately fool you into thinking she was a seasoned professional. At times, along with a drum kit live on stage and a backing track accompanying her for every song, she was unfortunately over powered by her own superfluities. In the softer moments when it was just a girl with a microphone, she emitted a breathtaking ability to tell a story but the majority of the set was too loud to enjoy.
Wispy vocals fell around tracks such as Falling and About Us, which were both heavy bass driven tracks. This was the total opposite styling of what we were expecting from James Bay as the headliner, and made for a bizarre choice of support act given the tastes of majority of the audience. JOY. brought a gritty, heavy rock/electronica mix which granted is exceptionally interesting to listen to, but perhaps did not translate well in the live sense, in that venue on that particular night.
Finally, with a flurry of guitar and a bang-crash he was on the stage. Ladies and gentlemen, James Bay. Collide kicked off the set with thick guitar sounds, an infectious track with a killer drum backbeat had the crowd wrapped around Bay’s finger in no time. Joined on stage by a four man band, together they created a harmony which continued to build and change throughout the set. Powering straight through Bay continued to play through his debut album with tracks such as Craving, When We Were On Fire and If You Ever Want To Be In Love.
“Let It Go provoked a deafening response from the crowd, whilst a bluesy twist on Move Together once again demonstrated that he is so much more than just a one hit wonder.”
With his two biggest single releases leaning more towards the romantic ballad genre, you could be forgiven for thinking that this guy was an ‘artist for women’. No doubt that’s how he has been painted in the media, and it’s worked; selling out shows around the world and going platinum is a sure indicator of the success that Bay has experienced over the last two years. It would be easy to expect a one-dimensional artist to take to the stage, for the night to subside into one love song after another. This was not the case.
With new introductions to old songs, it was a true showcase of artistry to watch five incredible musicians with undeniable talent jam onstage. The chemistry between them was palpable as they bounced off each other, delighting the crowd as they built the suspense and showed that they are masters of their trade. Together, they were able to keep the crowd guessing and then wow them with the songs they’ve come to know and love.
Let It Go provoked a deafening response from the crowd, whilst a bluesy twist on Move Together once again demonstrated that he is so much more than just a one hit wonder. In Best Fake Smile Bay managed to coax those who’d dropped a little extra cash in the seating areas to get involved, and soon enough everyone in the room was dancing and singing along. With a cover of Proud Mary for the encore, a rock version of which would put some ‘rock artists’ to shame, and hit single Hold Back The River he managed to play through his entire debut album in what felt like an incredibly quick 90 minute set. James Bay departed the stage, leaving fans begging for more, and teasing of a possible return to Brisbane.
James Bay is an artist who encompasses a perfect balance of slow romantic ballads and old school rock, keeping punters on their toes and putting on a show for everyone; whether female fan, somewhat interested parent of a boyfriend who’s been dragged along by an overzealous girlfriend. Don’t be too much of a tease Bay, we hope to see you again soon!
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