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The Crack Magazine

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James Bay at NX

This was my first time at the newly refurbished NX Newcastle since it opened, as I was constantly reminded by the smell of fresh paint and the neon lights. A new venue was a fitting welcome back to Newcastle for James Bay, who’s latest album is his first in 4 years and who hadn’t performed in the city for a hot minute.

Taking the stage in his trademark hat, Bay opened with feel good anthem ‘Best Fake Smile’ and set the room jumping, his powerhouse vocals echoed by a devoted crowd who knew all the words. He’s one of those artists who has so many bangers that you forget they’re all his, provoking me to turn to my plus one multiple times to say “Oh, I love this one!” While one minute we were dancing and singing along, the next we had our torches in the air as he gently strummed along to his heartfelt ballads. Bay has a chameleon voice that has all the power required for an upbeat bop yet the softness needed to deliver the emotion of his more stripped back tracks - and he sounds even better live. He also demonstrates some serious guitar chops as he seamlessly switched from acoustic to electric.

However, one of my favourite parts of the gig was that it wasn’t just James Bay. The rest of his band felt involved in a way beyond accompaniment, unlike most performances from solo artists. Toward the end of the gig, the stage just erupted into a big jam session, where everyone on and off stage just got lost in the music.

Nothing could’ve beaten ‘Hold Back the River’ as an epic closer, and Bay sent the crowd into even more of a frenzy by running out in his Newcastle United shirt - who he actually happens to support. Unlike his chosen football club, however, Bay proved to be well worth the wait.

Leanna Thomson

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