SetlistSit Down / Ring The Bells / I Know What I'm Here For / Crash / Laid / Johnny Yen / Someone's Got It In For Me / Shooting My Mouth Off / Waltzing Along / Say Something / Surprise / We're Going To Miss You / Vervaceous / Stutter / Just Like Fred Astaire / She's A Star / Tomorrow / Sound / Top Of The World / Come Home
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Nigel Williamson, The Times
There is no iron law of rock that says great bands have to burn out after two or three albums. Of course, most do, but those who manage to hang around often produce their best work a decade or more after the first flush of youthful success. The Charlatans and Blur are two that have matured to make the most rewarding albums of their career this year.
James belong in the same category. They have nearly fallen apart more times than the Northern Ireland peace process but have somehow survived to enjoy the most productive spell of their 15-year existence. Last year they were rejuvenated when The Best of James gave them their first number one album. This year their new offering Millionaires was only prevented from repeating the feat by the marketing juggernaut that is Shania Twain.
On the last night of their British tour at Wembley they were brimming with confidence. It showed in the way they opened with their best-loved song, Sit Down. There was singer Tim Booth, foot on the monitor and hanging off the mike stand, every inch the star. It was over-the-top and magnificent, and the crowd went wild. “So that’s the encore out of the way,” he quipped.
On last year’s tour the band had played an exhilarating show of hits. Here they mixed in songs from Millionaires in a ratio of roughly two to one in favour of old favourites, but as this still meant we got seven of the dozen songs on the new album no one could complain about a lack of freshness.
With a line-up of three guitars, the new songs mostly had the same bright, ringing quality as ever – although with James things are seldom what they seem and the most uplifting piece of anthemic stadium rock can have much darker lyrics.
First new song up was I Know What I’m Here For, a classic slamming anthem. Surprise, written about a suicidal friend, and the spell-like We’re Going to Miss You were further examples of how the mature James have learnt to perfect the epic grandeur of their trademark sound but combine it with provocative and sometimes disturbing lyrics. Even the brazen romanticism of the gorgeous Feel Like Fred Astaire had a darker undercurrent.
The hits, including Come Home, Laid, Sound and She’s a Star were greeted rapturously. For the encore Booth donned a long silver coat and, suspended by a harness, flew slowly over the audience like Peter Pan in the Christmas panto. The effect was both preposterous and awesome. A bit like James really.