Review: James Bay at Bedford Esquires as part of Independent Venue Week

James Bay
Bedford Esquires
29 January 2022

It’s not often you see a Brit award-winning, Grammy-nominated, platinum-selling artist at Bedford Esquires, but somehow, they’ve made it happen.

James Bay, who hails from nearby lands in Hertfordshire, is here as part of a special tour of grassroots venues to support Independent Venue Week. Unsurprisingly the show sold out in seconds, as locals grasped at the chance to see a big name in their own town, with the queue on the night going around the block.

Scottish singer Tamzene opened up the show, performing songs solo with just her keyboard for company. Tamzene eased the crowd into the night with gentle love songs like “Accidentally Told You”, delivered sweetly, making the crowd smile.

Support came from Tamzene (image: Kane Howie)

And then it’s time for the main man himself, James Bay.

Adorned in his signature hat and with just a guitar as accompaniment, gone is the fanfare you’d usually expect with an artist of this stature. James is performing a solo show tonight and all eyes are on him.

Opening with Craving, James gets proceedings going with a song everyone knows, before starting the first of his several chats in the evening with the crowd.

James Bay at Esquires (image: Kane Howie)

James told attendees that Esquires was a “proper venue” down to smell and sticky floors, seeming genuinely pleased to be back playing in the venues like those he started off in.

A couple of songs in and the crowd finally feel confident enough to have a sing-along to If You Ever Want to Be in Love, after some slight encouragement by James. Interspersed between the songs the crowd know and love was a number of new tracks.

It was perhaps a risky move playing quite so many previously unheard songs, but the crowd still enjoyed them as much as the classics, particularly Everybody Needs Someone which was met with rapturous applause and cheers.

Over the night James’ personality shone through as well as his soaring vocals, from kindly calling out the person whose phone rang in between songs and voicing his worries that he might get the lyrics in the new songs wrong.

A highlight of the night was “Pink Lemonade”, which despite not having the backing of a full band James delivered with such energy and vigour it made you forget it was just him and a guitar on stage.

Overall, James delivered a fantastic performance, delivering a show that is sure to go down in the Esquires history books.

by Jess Openshaw

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