SetlistJohnny Yen / Sometimes / Waltzing Along / Heavens / I Know What I'm Here For / Just Like Fred Astaire / Destiny Calling / Born of Frustration / Out To Get You / Laid / Vervacious / She's a Star / Tomorrow / Sound / Sit Down / Say Something / Come Home
More Information & Reviews
Mark Barnett, Manchester Evening News
From sub-folk wastrels to huge stadium act, James, Manchester’s most enduring popsters, have come a long way in an eventful 15-year career.
Their adoringly received sell-out show on Saturday just goes to show what near-contemporaries the Stone Roses and the Happy Mondays could have achieved had they not pressed their self-destruct buttons in such spectacular fashion.
Granted, Tim Booth’s ascetic voice might not have been quite on top form — “you may have noticed that my voice sounds a little raggedly sexy this evening” — but the show still made for a top night out.
On a huge set, which looked as if it had come from a 1970s Habitat catalogue, James kicked off with an extended version of perennial live favourite, Johnny Yen.
Immediately, they managed to do what a number of big pop acts, most notably Radiohead, have failed to do in an arena this year — fill it with sound.
It’s been said before that James were made for stadiums, and a slowed down moody version of Laid, and a muscular Destiny Calling, all lush and rounded, proved it.
What made the night all the more agreeable was the unveiling of a trio of new tracks from what must be their umpteenth album, due in April. They sounded a touch introspective and melancholy.
A return to an earlier style, it was a brave thing to do, and although it meant we had to do without How Was It For You?, there were few unhappy faces at the end.
The other memorable occurrence was the sight of Booth singing Say Something from the upper tier of seats at the back of the hall.
It probably gave the security staff kittens, but the fans, many of whom had dug out their James T-shirts for old times sake, loved it.
As clearly, did Booth himself.
Piers Martin, NME
Beee-hiiind yoouuu! Twelve-thousand heads suddenly twist round and look up, up and up some more. There, perched like a pantomime dame in his spangly, mirrored showbiz coat, Tim Booth – friend of Zen and generally ‘on one’ spiritually – is belting out ‘Say Something’ from the toppermost stand and wriggling in a manner only the bravest would term dancing. It’s more arthritic flamenco, really. Still, James, Arena; Arena, James – you’ve met before, haven’t you?
And how deafening it is on their home patch, where just some of the 600,000 souls who’ve bought their ‘Best Of’ album are gathered to hear quite a good band shimmy through lots of songs that consistently dented the Top 20, maybe even the Top Ten.
An impressive occasion, then, though one our hosts fail to capitalise on initially. Sure, ‘Johnny Yen’, ‘Sometimes’, even new one ‘Fred Astaire’ are all familiarly rousing yet Booth, who has ditched the coat to reveal a black sarong and tight tiger T-shirt, seems genuinely too weird for his legion of fans. Even stranger, as the six other Jamesblokes try to work miracles through the muddy PA, Booth mingles with the crowd purely because, it seems, this is a stadium show and that’s what frontmen do. A Christian among the Coliseum’s lions, he is duly mauled.
No matter, because he’s up again, mincing across the stage with a bad smell under his nose. Perhaps it’s churlish to read his between-song prose as arrogance, but when Tim introduces ‘Waltzing’ as “a prayer for a strong heart and an open mind”, or oozes, “Trust us, we might know what we’re doing” before the swaggering ‘Vervacious’ (sic), there’s an overwhelming desire to squirm, or to slap him for being so patronising.
And still the hits keep coming. ‘Destiny’, ‘She’s A Star’, the anthemic Simple Minds strut of ‘Born Of Frustration’: all big, all with clever lyrics, all playing in an elevator near you now.
Surprises? Other than Tim’s glittery, neck-cricking encore entrance, no, especially since most of the people are already sitting down when that tune gets played.
The flags are unfurled, the lighters held aloft. James have seen their future and, frankly, it’s enormous. Be afraid, if you like.