Born Of Frustration / Ring The Bells / Crash / Laid / Just Like Fred Astaire / Jam J / Someone’s Got It In For Me / One Of The Three / Next Lover / I Know What I’m Here For / Shooting My Mouth Off / Sometimes / She’s A Star / Tomorrow / Stutter / Top Of The World / Vervaceous / How Was It For You?
Damon Albarn and Liam Gallagher could never do this : Tim Booth, looking disturbingly like Troy from Eastenders – but presumably without the old lady fixation – has just dived off stage half way through “I Know What I’m Here For” and is dancing his enthusiastic spaghetti-in-a-wind-tunnel dance with a shirtless Moby lookalike. Excited fans crowd round, and here’s the weird thing; rather than getting mobbed and having his shirt ripped from his back, they just dance with him, following him around the floor like a ginger-dyed Pied Piper at the disco. Any chatterers in the crowd are duly shushed by means of a severe glaring – it’s all very measured and polite, which is possibly one reason why the band have trundled along in their own PG-certificate way for so many years.
This is a homecoming of sorts. Tim has relocated to the seaside town and his son Ben is dancing away with a group of schoolfriends to “Top Of The World” which is dedicated to him by his proud dad, adding to the cosy family-friendly atmosphere. Outside, the decrepit West Pier, last braved by humans when James made the video for “Just Like Fred Astaire”, is slowly crumbling into the sea, a reminder of the faded glamour which the band seem to love and try to capture with the big strings and unabashedly romantic sentiment of the song.
Of course, there is plenty here for the grown-ups. The roar that erupts for “Laid” rightly identifies it as one of James’ greatest moments, a eunuch-pitched Tim belting out the high notes in celebration of all kinds of rudeness, while a room full of daisy t-shirts simultaneously (yet politely) dances in the arm-windmilling, flailing way that traditionally meets The Hits. And, there are plenty of them, as each pub jukebox classic tumbles off the stage. “Ring The Bells” and “Born of Frustration” fit as comfortably as a beloved tatty old jumper, while the playing of less recognisible album tracks can be held responsible for the bar running out of beer. So when “Sit Down” fails to materialise, the disappointment felt by festival veterans in the room hangs in the air like a hippie-at-Glastonbury smell. “The thing is, before we were famous for all the pop songs, we were quite an experimental band,” Tim insists, after a flourish-filled “Vervaceous”, “so if we’re trying your patience, sorry.”
But none of it really matters as he shins up the balcony, holding every note of “How Was It For You?” as he is hugged, rather than overwhelmed by the audience. Unable to get back to the rest of the band for the planned “Come Home”, it is a chaotic an ending as you could hope for in such a well-behaved civilised atmosphere.
Tim’s verdict: “Brighton’s quite a cool audience, and this building’s quite hard. I didn’t have a good gig last time we were here, so this time I was determined to get out into the wings. Last time I can remember feeling very stuck onstage. But I had a really good time tonight. We ended weirdly, but it was just the chaos. We would have gone on and done another song, but I couldn’t find them – it was like Spinal Tap. It wasn’t just playing the songs, it was like an event with really bizarre things going on. I love that chaos, I hate it getting too fixed. I’d rather give people real chaos rather than a set, choroegraphed slick show.”