More Information & Reviews
Michael Kuelker, St Louis Post-Despatch
The first St. Louis appearance by England’s James was a show of passion and precision. The band performed to a sellout crowd Friday night at Mississippi Nights with Texas.
The sextet has been at it for 11 years, soldiering through lineup shifts and ambivalent record label support until “Seven” and “Laid” on Mercury/Fontana here in the U.S. attracted the audience the band deserves.
If James were translated to cinema, they group would be like French movies (most of which, I believe, are melancholy love stories that end in death or madness). Unlike Hollywood’s summer film fare, which delights through flash and formula, James’ songs challenge, offering by turns cynicism and hope, faith and doubt.
The band is blessed with a very fine vocalist in Tim Booth, who can ably capture any number of emotions in a concise lyric.
Friday night’s show opened on a quiet note with “Out to Get You” and followed up with two more acoustic numbers. That worked especially well on “Ring the Bells,” foregrounding the pensive lyrical mood (“I no longer feel my God is watching me”) and the tender melody.
Much of the early portion of the concert was devoted to the somber, spare arrangements of the “Laid” album. Soloing was highly skilled and tasteful, done invariably to build the song’s texture rather than to show off an individual’s chops.
The concert gradually gained in musical energy, with “Born of Frustration” segueing into the recent single “Sometimes,” followed up by the current radio player “Say Something.”
Soon after, if the sheer exuberance of “Laid” hadn’t won over the crowd, a tense moment and its aftermath surely did. With the song and an uninvited singalong (“You think you’re so pretty-eeee-eeee-eee”) almost through, the good mood was suddenly jarred.
Apparently, a body surfer in front of stage left was being ousted by security – too aggressively, for the band’s taste. Booth was visibly distressed, and the song began to lose its ballast.
Then guitarist James Gott stopped altogether, directing an angry joust to security: “Don’t you (expletive) treat our friends that way.” That alone earned a hearty cheer. And when they replayed the song, it was with absolute abandon, fervent and adreneline-pumped, sealing the bond between musicians and audience, creating among the few genuinely transcendent moments I’ve had at concerts lately.