The quaint basement beneath the musical shrine that is the Gibson Showroom, held the launch party for the Epiphone James Bay Signature Century guitar on Friday afternoon. With a modest selection of beverages and canapés on offer, the setting was all too reminiscent of an infrequent family get-together – only intensified by the small family and friend filled crowd. An elderly couple brimming with pride – whom presumably were relatives – filmed on their smartphones at the front of the crowd, still with 6 feet of empty space between them and Bay.
The Gibson-owned guitar company reissued the Century early last year, which appeared to be in response to James Bay’s success with the original model, which he very rarely performs without.
Being no stranger to intimate gigs – having already played one in support of Water Aid earlier this year – the singer-songwriter’s four song set was faultless, despite the reiteration of his negligence of guitar playing, let alone performing in recent months. Featuring most notably a cover of ‘Piece of My Heart’, James Bay showcased his powerful vocals, comparable to Janis Joplin on the Big Brother and the Holding Company (1968) version. For this number Bay was joined on lead guitar by guitarist and frontman of CORTES, Andy Cortes who supported Nothing But Thieves on their UK tour in 2016. The contrast of the two guitar tones – both debuting Bay’s signature model – further showcased the versatility of the Epiphone Century, which emits a natural distortion fuelled by the single pickup which is so suited to the rock genre.
Despite the room barely at quarter capacity, you could feel the presence emanating off of the stage, the warmth of his gratitude could have easily been mistaken for the blistering valves in his guitar amplifier. Having his debut album released only 18 months ago, it is some feat to already have his own signature model, based on his own 1966 Epiphone, joining a list alongside legendary artists such as Slash and Tony Iommi, to name a few.
It takes one look at the London-based singer with his striking silhouette characterised by a trademark fedora hat, to identify his star quality. However, as is the fickle music industry, squawking artists can often prosper by hiding behind backing tracks and pyrotechnics. This is not the case with James Bay, the intimacy of the venue allowed nowhere to hide with a raw and stripped back performance which only magnified his undoubtable vocal and guitar-playing talents. Yet to announce his next move, the release of his own Epiphone signature model epitomises the triumph of his debut album ‘Chaos and The Calm’ and more so is a glimpse of the potential success of Bay’s next album… whenever that may be.