In an interview with The Michigan Daily after their set, Booth, Davies and bassist Jim Glennie were partially saddened that the majority of the people in the crowd were ignoring them. “We’re the only tuneful band out there,” Booth said. Still, in addition to spending a great deal of time hanging out with fellow Brits Orbital, who were headlining the first part of the tour, the group does feel thankful that it is playing to a larger audience than if it just played to its fans in clubs.
Furthermore, the band is lucky to be playing at all, given what happened to Booth earlier in the year. Following the second date of James’ U.S. tour, Booth felt tremendous pain in his neck. He was diagnosed with a lateral disc protrusion in his neck and right shoulder, which produced pressure on his nerve root. He remained “on (his) back for three weeks” in San Francisco, and the band had to cancel the rest of its tour, including a May date at Clutch Cargo’s in Pontiac.
Once Booth was in suitable condition to tour, James promptly decided to sign on to do Lollapalooza, a move that, it was hoped, would help the band crack America. Unfortunately, James has had to miss a prime slot at last month’s venerable Glastonbury Festival in England. “It was hard (missing Glastonbury),” said Booth, “but there was a terrible deluge and they almost had to cancel it, so we weren’t so upset.” But by doing Lollapalooza, the band is essentially nixing the chance that it will honor its club dates in the near future. “No, this is it,” laments Booth.
James fans shouldn’t fret, though, for the group is going back into the studio in the fall (after playing at the United Kingdom’s Reading Festival in late August). Glennie said the album should be ready “by the early part of next year” and that the band wants to “keep movin'” to make up for lost time this year.
It is imperative that James rebuilds its momentum, for the group has encountered numerous stumbling blocks in addition to Booth’s severe injury. First, founding James member and slide guitarist Larry Gott told the remaining band members that he was leaving the group prior to the making of “Whiplash.” Gott “had to choose between staying with his wife or us and chose her,” Glennie said.
The same “black” day that James was informed of Gott’s decision, the band found out it owed hundreds of thousands of pounds in back taxes. In addition, Booth had decided that he needed to go off on his own for a little while, which resulted in his collaboration with “Twin Peaks” composer Angelo Badalamenti, “Booth and the Bad Angel.”
Nevertheless, James got back together and recorded the excellent “Whiplash,” which you wouldn’t know about if you listened to radio or watched MTV. Neither “Tomorrow” nor the album’s first single, “She’s A Star,” has received much airtime or video spins. As such, it seems quite apparent why the band is itching to get back in the studio and come up with an even better album.
And despite the fact that “She’s A Star” is quite possibly the most catchy song on “Whiplash,” James didn’t play it at Pine Knob. When asked why the song wasn’t performed, given that one would think the band would try to promote its latest album as much as possible, Booth said, “We’re trying out different setlists (at every show), and this is what we played today.”
Booth did note a change, however, in James’ approach to determining what to play before each concert. “We used to always change (the setlist), but now we try to get more stable for our sound guys and ourselves.” Part of this newfound stability can be witnessed in Booth’s ritual of leaving the stage (he no longer needs a neck brace or a wheelchair) and wandering into the audience on the “grassy knoll.” “We’ve done it about twice before (and we plan to keep the tradition),” Booth said. “It breaks the ice.”
The bandmembers had plenty of interesting insight into some of their British musical contemporaries. When asked if fellow Mancunians the Stone Roses could’ve been as big as Oasis in America if the band put more effort into touring – the Roses had sold-out gigs at Madison Square Garden in New York City and another in L.A. before pulling out at the last minute and never fulfilling them – Booth said, “No. Ian Brown (lead singer of the now-disbanded Stone Roses) can’t sing in tune and Liam (Gallagher of Oasis) can. You can’t tour the States with an F-you attitude.”
Davies also has a critical opinion of a current U.K. music giant, Radiohead. Despite the fact that Oxford’s Radiohead has garnered critical adulation for its third record, “OK Computer,” Davies feels it is “self-indulgent shite.”
Booth, on the other hand, was impressed with the success of the Prodigy, a techno band whose new album, “The Fat of the Land,” debuted at No. 1 in the U.S. two weeks ago. “By number of first-week sales, Prodigy is bigger than Oasis and will (eventually) be bigger than the Spice Girls,” Booth said.
As for James, perhaps it is not realistic that the group will sell as many albums as the aforementioned artists, but its members have a positive attitude and are putting lots of effort into expanding the band’s popularity in the States. Don’t count them out, for a year or two down the line, James may well be headlining shows at venues like Pine Knob.