Vervaceous / Crash / Laid / Destiny Calling / I Know What I’m Here For / Sometimes / We’re Going To Miss You / Johnny Yen / Strangers / Play Dead / Say Something / She’s A Star / Someone’s Got It In For Me / Just Like Fred Astaire / Surprise / Tomorrow / Sound / Top Of The World / Out To Get You / Sit Down
Christian Ward, NME
It’s better to fail than just be mundane, they say. But while certain pioneering souls – like Campag Velocet or Death In Vegas – are ready to reach for embarrassingly distant sonic heights and produce flawed masterpieces in the process, most Brit bands seem content to scuffle around the middle ground.
Take James – tonight playing a low-key secret set to a venue packed with true believers. In Tim Booth, at least, they have a frontman who can still make us believe we’re watching a pop hero, as he wades into the adoring audience during ‘Laid’, or gradually peels clothes off his sweat-soaked body. He’s shameful, silly and deluded, but ultimately endearing.
If only the music was equally frazzled. But James know what they’re here for. “Hi, we’re those strange vegetarian, Buddhist, Smiths, Simple Minds lookalikes,” Tim drawls, post-ironically.
But this safe hits set attests to the fact that they’ve come to terms with the label, that it’s almost a comfort – they don’t have to try too hard any more. Hence we get a smattering of new songs from current album ‘Millionaires’ which already sound like oldies, so basic is the James formula.
It’s all a vaguely soothing acknowledgement that James are still here, still the same and settling into middle-age. They’ll never be up there with their idols, but at least they’ve never humiliated themselves, right? Wouldn’t want that, eh? Wouldn’t want to be mad and special. That would take, you know, effort or something.
by Andrew Gibbons, Dotmusic
Seemingly constantly berated by the music press and music fans alike, James mark their return with a new album, ‘Millonaires’, with a secret gig at The Embassy Rooms. OK, let’s get the obligatory obvious pun and question out of the way with – do they know what they’re here for? Well, apart from, as Tim Booth describes it, “whoring ourselves all week to promote the new album”, of course, James are back to gather together their cult following, win over the dithering few and convert the cynics. So, no change there, then, really.
What is different is that, on tonight’s evidence at least, James appear to be relishing the challenge with a fresh optimism. The band see how eager we are to be knocked off our feet and swept away by new thrills aplenty, and – up to a point – duly deliver. ‘Crash’ links up with ‘Laid’, and ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’ sprinkles its stardust over ‘Tomorrow’, which in turn twinkles with a fresh gloss. ‘I Know What I’m Here For’ provokes much playful pogo-ing, bouncing alongside ‘She’s A Star’, and thus making the floor sag alarmingly in the middle.
True, the musical momentum also sags a little at times, especially when playing out the less immediate and inward looking tracks from ‘Millionaires’ such as ‘Surprise’ and ‘Vervaceous’. Both suffer from the humid stuffiness which is hanging over the Embassy Rooms, making our limbs weary and our heads ache. Yet, with a welcome second wind, James go some way to lifting this cloud of uncertainty with a mixture of well known hits, ‘Destiny Calling’ for example, and fan friendly assorted bits and pieces, chiefly, ‘Johnny Zen’ and ‘Jam J’, the latter reaping a rich seam of synthtastic special effects.
Despite this synthetic sheen, this small-scale gig gives us a chance to get close and personal with James. That said, whether ‘Millionaires’ will meet and greet so intimately remains to be seen. Perhaps what’s needed is a little more tender loving care.
by Nat Boss, Q Online
Despite the ornate surroundings, the air inside the Embassy Rooms, off Tottenham Court Road, is heavy with the pungent, salty aroma of the well-oiled mosh pit. Whisper it quietly, brothers and sisters, but James are playing and the word from the underground is that the new album Millionaires – which this gig is showcasing on its launch date – is really rather special.
Early indications bade well for this oh-so-secret gig (tickets a mere £16.50, available via Ticketmaster and all good stockists). Crash for example waltzes nicely into Laid, the new single Just Like Fred Astaire dances off with Tomorrow bedazzling all and sundry with glam and glitter lit up by a thousand stars. Or possibly a few well-positioned fairy lights, if you want to be prosaic.
Not that James can ever be accused of being so inclined. They frustrate and astound fans and critics alike in equal measure. For every flag-waving arena number like Come Home there’s also stretches where you can safely nip off to the toilet, bump into Radio 1’s Chris Moyles and return without seemingly missing a beat.
Unfortunately, a small selection of Millionaries falls into this category Surprise and Vervacious escape into the ether with barely a lick resonating behind them. That said there are times when the long-fused ballad transcends these moments and explodes into something altogether more persuasive. Someone’s Got It In 4 Me begins with a polite but reserved greeting yet by its climax snaps and snarls, transforming Tim Booth from cute puppy lead singer into a whirling Tasmanian Devil, all elbows, spittle and attitude.
If Anybody Hurts You undercuts its fragile melodies with a bitter undercurrent that pours over the faults of critics, former lovers and failing friends alike. It’s a heady mix of the spine tingling and the spiteful, the toxic and the intoxicating. Which is how James have managed to throw off the stereotype of being Manc-y anthem rockers to become genuine musical contenders after 16 years of workmanlike progress punctuated by the odd knockout punch.
For some critics the effect is confusing merely because the new James refuse to Sit Down on past laurels. They may spend a lot of time shifting musical gears but there a few bands with as much conviction about the direction they are heading. Whether you want them to lead the way is up to you, but there were at least 500 people here tonight who were sweating buckets in the effort to keep up.