Sam Steele, NME
Saturday night headliners James are caught between old and new. Neither newcomers nor obvious has-beens, the erstwhile Northern glummos haven’t played WOMAD since 1985.
They’ve been too busy courting America and re-inventing themselves as stadium rockers after “Sit Down” – but they’re now rumoured to be searching for their folky roots … which could explain their return to this Cornwall cove. On the other hand, it could simply indicate that James are simply on the downward slide.
Tonight’s set, featuring most of the songs from the new album “Laid”, is liberally sprinkled with suitably rustic traces. An acoustic ambience replaces the bombastic rock of “Seven”, and there are distinct signs of James returning to the humble jangle of the “Gold Mother” album.
Thus “Sit Down” is swiftly dispatched at the start of the set to avoid confusion and make way for the following hour of Smithsian guitars, bouncing accordian parts and Tim Booth’s strangled vocals – all of which are a tad bland in the colourful arena of the WOMAD festival. Even the current single “Sometimes” is little more than a pleasant wash of instantly forgettable melody that sees the crowd swaying uncertainly as their former heroes transmute into dull folk-rockers.
Sadly, it appears that James are wistfully attempting to recreate their finest hour of shuffling student songs just as the most exciting new bands are pushing forward into a global village of musical fusion – a fusion that, as Fun-da-Mental demonstrated, has the potential to cross generations as well as cultural boundaries. The fools!