SetlistLullaby / Say Something / Laid / She's A Star / Jam J / Out To Get You / Surprise / Born of Frustration / Waltzing Along / Destiny Calling / Sound / Top Of The World / I Know What I'm Here For / Sit Down / Tomorrow
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Arriving early for this “secret” Glastonbury warm-up show, we were treated to being able to listen to James soundcheck sat outside the venue. Two new songs “Surprise” and “I Know What I’m Here For” were run through a couple of times along with Lullaby, Jam J, Runaground (not actually played) and a number of improvisations. This led to a great sense of anticipation entering the venue especially as we’d managed to get some kind of unofficial confirmation of the December tour as well.
Theaudience opened for James again and , played basically the same set as April, but had obviously worked on some of the arrangements, and made the songs sound fresh again. I know a lot of James fans (particularly the female ones I wonder why) despise them, but anyone remember Ambitious Beggars, The Spaceheads, Silver Sun? : James came on about 9.20 and started with a chilling version of Lullaby, a welcome change to the full-on intro of Come Home from the April shows, Despite Tim’s comments in his interview at Brixton (see elsewhere in the fanzine), it appears James are still willing to take risks, Say I Something, She’s A Star and Laid followed, Tim starting to dance more freely than earlier in the year The next real surprise in the set was the inclusion of Jam J, one of my personal live favourites given its extreme energy and potential for improvisation, with the strobe lighting serving to enhance the chaos of the song. Out To Get You, which followed, provided an immediate and soothing contrast. The band had now won the whole crowd over and saw this as the time to introduce a new song as we’d hoped they would. Despite only having played the song a few times Surprise was a total success reminiscent of Runaground but taken a step further. A long introduction to a wild version of Born of Frustration followed, Tim dancing like a possessed dervish in the limited space available with the crowd chanting back the “woo woo woo” section. Waltzing Along and Destiny Calling kept the momentum before a truly astonishing version of Sound. This had been one of the highlights of the April tour with the band taking the song up and down and stretching it to over ten minutes, but there was even more life in it tonight.
The encore started with an eerie version of Top Of The World before Saul announced they were going to play another new song but that “it might be shit”. Shit hot, perhaps? I Know What I’m Here For starts off with a wall of “nah nah nah nah” chants from Saul, Adrian, Michael and Tim, before Tim laments on the sacrifices made in the quest of fame and then urges the crowd to “follow me”. Apparently the lyrics had been written during the soundcheck and Tim was singing them from a sheet, but this song was truly special and hopefully the audience reaction conveyed this to the band. This was the real James, taking risks, creating unique moments of brilliance by semi- improvisation. More, much more please.
Sit Down was almost an anti-climax after this, but managed to rouse the crowd. There’s probably been more written about this song than any other James song, but it seems to have gained a new lease of life this year. They’re not playing it any differently, but it seems to have a focus for those who’ve followed James for years and the casual observer and, after a gig of this quality, it is a celebration.
The lights were back up and then suddenly it all went dark again and James came back out and ran through a frenetic version of Tomorrow, before leaving an audience well and truly mesmerised and me wondering whether Glastonbury would be a bad idea the next day.
Those fears we all had in April about James blanding out, not taking risks, playing safe set lists, the jury’s still out, but this was a pretty compelling case for the defence.