Review and pics: James Bay, Forest Live 2016, Cannock Chase

Cannock Chase seemed more like the fields of Glastonbury, just without the rivers of mud, as James Bay performed to thousands of adoring fans.

Review and pics: James Bay, Forest Live 2016, Cannock Chase

James Bay performs at Forest Live 2016 on Cannock Chase

The singer/songwriter who shot to fame in 2014, wooed the crowds on Friday with his soulful rendition of Collide and Craving, both of which got fans waving their arms in the air from the outset.

The supporting act, girl band Joseph, delivered a fitting performance of melodic ballads that carefully complemented the work of Bay, renowned for his sensitive, gentle lyrical renditions, which came to the fore in track Need the Sun to Break. 

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A mixture of Bay's more well-known numbers, including Best Fake Smile, were played out in full to the cheering audience alongside a series of energetic new tracks from his forthcoming album.

The crowd’s enthusiasm didn't wane throughout the performance which seemed to pay stylistic homage to fellow male ballad soloists, Ed Sheeran, Paolo Nutini and James Morrison.

What set Bay apart however, was how he seemed to read the vibe of the crowd, responding to the chilled-out, relaxed atmosphere of the Chase, full of picnics, children and families of all ages. 

He delivered sincere love songs with an understated honesty which had couples singing along, when they weren't kissing in the crowd, of course. 

What I enjoyed most about the gig though, was its simplicity. Bay’s delivery of 'Scars', accompanied as it was by red flashing lights, and spirited vocals were as technical as the show seemed to get - and that was a strength - because the simpler it appeared, the more impressive Bay's vocals and musicality were revealed to be. 

The show was very much like the chaos and calm that Bay entitled his debut album - just when you thought the vibe of the night was totally tranquil, he burst in with vibrant, kick ass number that reminded us all why this musician was named British Male Solo Artist at the Brit Awards this year. With just his hat, his signature outfit of all black and a guitar, he even made his brief playing of Elvis Presley's 'I can't help falling in love with you' all his own.

It was a performance that I did not expect to see in the middle of a field on a Friday night, but it was one I would definitely not ‘hold back’ on going to again, as I'm sure the thousands who flocked to see this impressive soulful soloist would agree. 

By Jessica Labhart

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