LIVE REVIEW: James Bay, Newcastle University

GREAT SHOW ... James Bay at Newcastle University Students' Union.
GREAT SHOW ... James Bay at Newcastle University Students' Union.
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HAVING read mixed reviews of the 24-year-old troubadour’s live shows, I didn’t know what to expect from the Hitchin-born singer-songwriter.

But tickets for this intimate gig by the winner of this year’s BRITs Critic Choice award sold like hot cakes, and he responded with a great show.

STRIKING A CHORD ... James Bay showed his knowledge of the local lingo.

STRIKING A CHORD ... James Bay showed his knowledge of the local lingo.

Dressed head-to-toe in black with long hippy-hair dangling from under his trademark hat, Bay was welcomed by huge cheers.

His banter with the crowd was “absolutely champion”, as he showed off what Geordie slang he knew, confessing: “I Iove the Geordie accent, it’s purely belter.”

His knowledge of the local lingo comes from his touring crew, the majority whom have roots here in the region, including his tour manager, Ross Lewis from North Shields.

It’s a shame the local crew couldn’t have staged the show in a more fan-friendly venue, however.

RISING STAR ... James Bay has already sold out the O2 Academy in September.

RISING STAR ... James Bay has already sold out the O2 Academy in September.

Newcastle University’s Students’ Union felt claustrophobic, with its long, narrow space and low ceiling supported by floor-to-ceiling beams, sadly resulting in lots of restricted views.

Those lucky enough be able to see Bay as well as hear him, like myself, witnessed a wonderful showcase of songs from his début chart-topping album, Chaos And The Calm (produced by Jacquire King).

It’s filled with songs about self-discovery, love and the emotional adjustments experienced by the rising star, who at times reminded me of a hipster version of soul singer James Morrison.

Bluesy tune Collide got the show off to a cracking start, and Bay rocked out to Craving, Get Out While You Can and an amped-up fast-paced version of Best Fake Smile, backed by a three-piece band.

But it was the softer ballads, for me, which really struck a chord during the show.

Scars - about long-distance love - which took him two years to write - showcased his gravelly voice beautifully.

Let It Go and Need The Sun To Break resonated as Bay sang the heartfelt lyrics about complicated relationships, and the melodic Move Together and Incomplete were delivered with the delicacy they deserved.

Frustratingly, during the quieter tracks not everyone was hanging on to his every word, as chatter hummed around the venue.

But, Bay - who is fast becoming a worldwide star after sold-out tours in the UK, Europe, Australia and the US - didn’t appeared bothered, and genuinely seemed humble when thanking fans for helping his album hit the No 1 spot.

He closed with his debut hit, Hold Back The River, which went down a storm and prompted a huge sing-along, and he promised to return to the North east soon.

Tonight, Bay will perform an intimate acoustic set at Pop Recs in Sunderland. It’s already sold out, as is his September 27 show at the O2 Academy in Newcastle.