What Is It Good For / Stand / Senorita / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Say Something / Born Of Frustration / Sometimes / Johnny Yen / Someone’s Got It In For Me / English Beefcake / Pleased To Meet You / Destiny Calling / She’s A Star / How Was It For You / Top Of The World / Laid / Ring The Bells
by the Webmaster
Arriving on stage about ten minutes late having left Tim “on the toilet, the bastards” and without the tacky “James, (city), come on boys” intro, the band were met with a rapturous reception from a Nottingham crowd for the first time since 1991.
Dropping Gaudi from the five new song opening onslaught, the band opened with Work It All Out, Stand Stand Stand, Senorita and Daniel’s Saving Grace. Work It All Out sounds more emotive and powerful on each listen. Stand Stand Stand (about “things we’re proud of”) and Senorita (about “addictions of all forms”) are singles in the making, both effortlessly simple songs which will stick leech-like in your brain. Saving Grace has a fantastic keyboard opening from Mark and is a full throttle romp throughout.
Say Something follows and is sadly like James on autopilot. Tim tries to inject energy into the improvisation at the end, but you feel the band could play this backwards and blindfold. The crowd loved it to bits though.
Born of Frustration and Sometimes have a similar delirious effect on the audience. Tim refers to the two as being about transcendence, but Sometimes is unusually weak tonight. There are some bad vibes on stage and this and other seasoned James observers picked up on this.
Johnny Yen blows the audience away. This is the best version so far on the tour. Saul’s violin wrestles with Jim’s bass and Adrian’s guitar for room, whilst Tim’s dancing becomes more intense as the song progresses and the lyrical improvisation more varied.
Someone’s Got It In For Me is again greeted with surprising warmth but again it seems to suffer under the weight of the on-stage atmosphere.
English Beefcake, described by Tim as “one we’re very proud of” was the undoubted highlight of the evening. In the three nights since this was debuted at Norwich, it has gone from sounding like a jam with potential to a fully fledged show stopper.
For two and a half minutes, Pleased to Meet You is a beautiful, reflective, fragile lament and then overdone guitars and a megaphone come in and the emotion gets lost in the feedback. This could be one of those simple powerful and poignant songs that James do (Blue Pastures, Lullaby, Top of the World), but they need to ditch the guitars.
Destiny, Star and How Was It For You? are rattled off in almost double quick time to close the show. The crowd lap up the hits and the front rows become a seething moshpit. Tim loses himself in dance with such an intensity that hasn’t been seen for years.
The encore begins with Top of the World and there are sound problems as Tim can’t hear the guitars. Some of the crowd begin to sing to the band before Tim cuts in and starts the song. The false start has dissolved some of the atmosphere on which the song is dependent, so it’s less powerful tonight than usual.
Laid follows and whilst it is an immediate crowdpleaser, it just sounds too easy to play tonight.
Dave’s What The World intro to Ring The Bells signals the last song and it is here that the defining moment of the gig occurs for me. As the band crank up the speed and the volume to the climax of the song, Tim stands dead still, eyes closed and then starts to move, slowly at first, just arms, then a smile, eyes still closed, gradually moving faster before erupting into his more traditional dance to the end.
This was not a bad gig and the crowd loved it. But there was an atmosphere and a tension on stage. The set itself was much shorter than previously – about 80 minutes with a late start and a 10.45 finish – and there were only six new songs. Hopefully it was end of tour tiredness or bad hangovers, but there was definitely an edge there tonight.
Rock City website by Luke Seagrave
Shea Seger had the enormous task of being the support act at what was anticipated to be Rock City’s biggest gig of the year. It must quite daunting to support a group as big as James, but she pulled it off quite easily. Shea Seger is very reminiscent of Gwen from the group No Doubt. She played a lot of radio friendly songs. Although she was pleasing, the audience eagerly awaited the appearance of James.
James came on and were swallowed by thunderous applause. The audience were there to experience a really special show. However, being exposed to some of the slowest melodic tracks from the outset seemed to have a distinctly numbing effect. This lack of reaction from the audience may have occurred because the songs played were from James` forthcoming album, which won’t be released until next year. After five songs into the set list, James finally put some effort into the show and played something the crowd knew. `Say Something` awakened half the audience and got them moving. The rest of the crowd carried on sleeping.
However, from here on the audience livened up and the show really began to take off. James ploughed their way through `Sometimes`, `Destiny Calling` and slipped in `Born Of Frustration`. Anyone who knows James will know that they have had quite a lot of top ten hits but never quite made it to the category of Major British Band. Those people who say they don’t know James will probably find that they actually do! When you see them live you can guarantee that they will play a song that you recognise because you’ve heard it countless times before- people just don’t realise it’s by James.
They brought the show to a close with `She’s A Star` and `How Was It For You`, which you just can’t help but jump along to it. They strolled off stage and the audience awaited the obvious and traditional encore. Sure enough, they returned to the stage and did an encore that had the entire crowd rocking. They played `On Top of The World` followed by a brilliant version of `Laid` which is one of those songs that sounds so much better live. The true end to the show came with `Ring The Bells`.
The downside to this gig was that they did not play `Sit Down` which is disappointing because it’s such a crowd pleaser. Apart from the first few songs being nothing short of tedious, more a test of endurance than anything else, the show did improve and became quite memorable. It is rumoured James were paid more than David Bowie to play at Rock City, if true, then it was money well spent. On a personal note, I found it insulting that James referred to Rock City as a `toilet`. Careful, lads. It’s practically my second home and I find it very comfortable!