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LIVE: James Bay w/ Rug Wilson // Clwb Ifor Bach 19/02/2022

It had been a long time coming - the James Bay gig at the renowned Clwb Ifor Bach was set to take place two weeks ago but covid unfortunately once again threw a brick into the works. But boy was it worth the wait. James returned to Cardiff with new songs, new stories and some laughs. I took the jaunt down Womanby Street like I do on every gig night but it was the first time I'd actually queued to get into the venue, the queue was the biggest I’d seen in a while. Opening the evening was local lad Rug Wilson, Bridgend born and bred, now living in the big old city of London. After a successful few months, signing a record deal and jumping on tour with the man himself, Wilson returned to Cardiff with friends, family and a staple of new music, and left with an army of supporters. His performance was deep, with honey-rich vocals that’ll stick in my mind for a while. I'm an emotional person really, but I have never cried at a show. I suppose there's a first for everything because Wilson really pulled at my heart strings and I can’t wait to see what’s next for this young star. The main man took to the stage to a round of applause from an audience that had waited for what felt like years. ‘Craving’, taken from his debut album ‘Chaos and the Calm’ started off a heartfelt, warming evening of acoustic ballads and stories of heartache, fall-outs and love. Bay took a step back to his roots with oldies such as ‘Let It Go’ and ‘Best Fake Smile’ - both stand-out, goosebump-worthy tracks - as well as performing a toned down, acoustic version of his sparkly pop hit ‘Pink Lemonade’ - which was a personal favourite. Amongst the classics, he performed what we’ll be hearing from his new album: a new era of ‘contradictory’ (he said it himself) music that gives you hope but makes you well up at the same time, something he’s always been successful at.

It was an evening filled with new tales, hardships throughout what has been a tough period for everyone, as well as laughs, especially when Bay forgot the lyrics to one of his new songs - but we’ll forgive him for that, he did just recover from covid and it was the first time he picked up the guitar since his last show in Stockton. Throughout the night, he put emphasis on the importance of supporting grassroot venues, stating that these spaces are where people play before they hit the big stages. His work with Save Our Venues has always been something I’ve admired about the singer-songwriter. A few plucks of the guitar triggered the crowd, screaming as they awaited the last song, the classic Hold Back The River. Phones and hands flew up to the roof as the crowd erupted into song, taking it back to where it all really began for the fedora-donned Bay. We laughed, we cried, and we left knowing that the next time we’d hear these tracks would be after the album release and we also left knowing we were the first to hear them. It was a somewhat risky move that he admitted himself - fans usually want to hear what they know, they want to sing along to their favourite songs - this wasn’t the case this time round. It was a special performance for the history books and it's one where in a couple of years you'll get to tell people: 'I was there.' Words: Tate Powell Image: Josie Charlwood


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