What Is It Good For? / Stand / Senorita / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Say Something / Sometimes / Tomorrow / Johnny Yen / Someone’s Got It In For Me / Junkie / The Shining / English Beefcake / Pleased to Meet You / Born of Frustration / Destiny Calling / Shes a Star / How Was It For You? / Stutter / Top of The World / Laid / Ring The Bells / Come Home
Shea Segar / Exit 52
by the Webmaster
Arriving on stage at 9, 15 minutes earlier than the rest of the tour, was a suggestion that we were in for something special tonight. And so we were. The tension evident at the previous night’s Nottingham show was blown away and replaced by a band hellbent on impressing the traditionally more laidback London crowd.
Four songs in, Work It All Out, Stand Stand Stand, Senorita and Daniel’s Saving Grace – all songs most of the audience had never heard before – and the battle had been won. Each was delivered with a power and energy that one has to hope can be captured in the studio when the band decamp back to Surrey with Eno in a week’s time. The only criticism, and it is a minor one, is that Tim insists on using Hullabaloo in Senorita and it doesn’t work. For Saving Grace, the band are joined on stage by Wired Strings, the quartet that had accompanied them at V2000 and Shepherds Bush. They help take Saving Grace to a new level.
Tim is on absolute top form tonight. His belief in the new material is self-evident, even to the extent of urging people in the crowd “if the person next to you is chatting, punch them”
Three Best Of tracks follow and these have been the litmus test of James on this tour. Say Something, knocked off as if they seemed they couldn’t be arsed last night, is reinvented, augmented by the strings and is frankly mindblowing. Tim’s frenetic improvisation over the end section takes the song to a completely new level.
Sometimes and a magnificently wracked Tomorrow inspire the crowd to surge forward, the string section adding to the cacophony of sound being produced by the band, who are the most up for this show than I have witnessed for a long time. Even Adrian is bounding about and smiling. We’ll make a guitar axe hero out of him yet.
Perennial crowd favourite Johnny Yen, by far the highlight of older material so far this tour, follows and goes down a storm as both band and singer improvise to create a sound so powerful and toxic even the most hardened cynic could not deny.
The opening bars of Someone’s Got It In For Me herald a massive response from the audience and the band’s fiery performance carry them through this epic masterpiece from Millionaires. Grown men stand and stare at the astonishing light show, listen to the wall of sound being produced and jaws drop. I’d thought James had forgotten how to be this good, this mindblowingly spectacular.
Four new songs followed and the pace did still not relent. Everyone’s A Junkie was not completely new as it had been broadcast on MTV from Shepherds Bush but this version was a world away from that. There is such an evident belief in the magnificence of this new material and it is impossible not to get caught up in it tonight.
Words cannot begin to describe just how good the next two tracks are – The Shining and English Beefcake leave me astonished. These have been my favourite new songs on the tour so far tonight, but they get better with every listen and new twist that the band add to them. Even Pleased To Meet You with a more reserved guitar end section is a major triumph, Tim focusing in on a guy in the front row and singing the “pleased to meet you, where are you from and what your’s name” directly to him.
Tim tries to get the audience to holler back the “wooo wooo” opening to Frustration back to him, but with no great success – “too many Cowboys, not enough Indians”, but this is a very minor glitch and soon forgotten as Tim bounces around the stage, Saul and Adrian move forward to perform and the crowd goes completely ape. Destiny is given a similar response, the lyrics seem even more pointed in tonight’s atmosphere of celebration and with the intensity and the ferocity of the performance.
Tim almost gives me a heartattack as I’m stood eyes closed mouthing the words to Star. There’s a white blur and two hands on my shoulder and he’s there about six inches in front of me. The crowd rush to touch their hero who is clearly enjoying tonight and he stays on the barrier until the end of the song, when he leaps back on stage as the opening bars of How Was It For You? crank up. The pace continues to increase through this welcome readdition to the setlist, Tim’s dancing and the band’s music, including the longawaited return of the cowbell are just simply mindblowing. I’m writing this review at 7 the morning after and still finding it hard to find words to describe this show.
The piece de resistance of the evening has to be Stutter. Conceived before a number of the audience in all likelihood, this is 11 musicians and one lighting man creating one of the most spectacular sound and vision that I have ever had the pleasure of witnessing. Lights go up and down in almost every imaginable colour and shape. New twists and turns in the music follow on one after the other. Gobsmacked is the most appropriate word to describe the effect this had. A breathtaking end to a breathtaking show.
Top Of The World was almost muted as a encore opener by what had gone before, but Saul’s violin solo saves the day.
Laid is short, powerful, ecstatic and swallowed whole by the crowd. The band, every one with wide beams on their faces look out on to their adoring masses heaving, sweating and yelling themselves hoarse as they sing back every word to Tim.
Ring The Bells is spoilt a little by a Tim-induced stage invasion. One crowdsurfer is invited onstage by Tim and this encourages a whole brigade of sweaty moshers to follow suit. Trouble is that security are totally unequipped to handle it. There are five blokes for the whole pit and one skinny ten stone security guard cannot lift a fifteen stone beer monster out of a crowd at arms length however much he thinks he can so the front two rows get bodies landing on their heads . Security at some venues can work this out, but tonight they are complete twats, there’s no other word to describe them.
The crowd refuse to let the band go and so they agree to play another song, a triumphant version of Come Home, backed by the string section who Tim tells “you don’t know this one girls” but they join in anyway.
This was the best James gig I’ve seen in a long long time. The new material is so powerful and the band’s belief in it is self evident. Record it and release it now please, don’t give it chance to go stale. The older material is reinvigorated by performance. Ten out of ten.
Everyone always says “James are such a good live band…!” which has made me always want to see them so I would have been happy whatever was played at Brixton Academy – as long as it was good but I knew it would be, I was seeing James play live!!! Shea Seger was a great choice of support band and played a good set but everyone was waiting for the band we had all come to see.
James opened with new songs which I know some fans were disappointed by (they were warned they’d play new ones by the band themselves when tickets went on sale!) but I loved it. The chance to hear new stuff before it’s even been released was great. My personal favourite of these four new songs was senorita, maybe just because I always see Tim Booth dancing when I remember it! After this surprising start they moved onto old favourites including Tomorrow which sounded sooo good live and also Johnny Yen. They returned to new songs soon enough though including Beefcake and Pleased to meet you – in which Tim Booth came off the stage and being near the front, I got so squashed! Next came a mixture of songs from throughout their career and I think they planned to finish with Ring the Bells as they seemed surprised to find themselves back on stage again and singing Come Home to a thoroughly mad and enthusiastic crowd!!
I’ll not forget this concert for a long time and not only because someone jumped on my feet so much that my toenail has fallen off! Now that’s how you know you had a good time…
by Trevor Baker, Melody Maker (4/5)
You put your left leg in. Your right leg out. In. Out. In Out.
In-out-in-out-in-out-in-out. You pump the air with your fists. You spin like the hands of Big Ben on fast-forward. You don’t know whether it’s this year or 1983. You do the Tim Booth and shake it all about.
No. This will never catch on. It’s halfway through “Senorita”, one of nine new songs James play tonight. The vibe is “Different Class”-era Pulp – all soaring melodies and low-key softly despairing vocals. And unbelievably, James are back on form. The Tim Booth School Of Better Dancing won’t be opening any time soon, but the James Tune Academy (est 1803) is still very much Ivy League.
This shouldn’t work. An opening that consists of four new songs, while their best known offering (“Sit Down”) is consigned to the dustbin of history. It’s arrogant. It’s bloody minded. But bear with them, because at this point in their career, it’s all that James can do. They play two very distinct sets tonight. The first consists of the new stuff – highlights being “Someone’s Got It” (sic) – the missing link between U2’s “One” and Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “The Power Of Love” – and “Pleased To Meet You”, with its desolate guitar squeals, nails the horrors of music industry falseness, like a gentle cousin of Radiohead’s “Paranoid Android”
The second set, though, is pure spangly topped cabaret. “Born of Frustration”, “Destiny Calling”, “She’s A Star”, “Sometimes”, “How Was It For You?” – all pushed out to totter round the venue like an ageing circus elephant. We may not be bored, but, disconcertingly, you can tell by the frown on Saul’s face and the lack of sparkle in Tim’s voice that James are.
It would be too simple to say that new=good, old=bad. “The Shining” and “Beefcake” both descend into the platitude rock of U2 at their hollow worst, while jubilant classics “Laid” and “Stutter” are simply enormous – ripping the roof off the venue and using it as a frisbee. But the great thing about James now is that they’ve rediscovered fear – the fear of not being as good as they used to be and the fear that if they’re not careful they could turn into performing seals. “If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor”, Tim sang with terrible irony at the peak of their career – but, tonight, the bank’s still very much open for business.
Tim Booth’s Verdict : “It was really good. I was worried that we’d peaked too early because for the first few songs, it felt really transcendental, you don’t get moments like that very often. I thought the reaction from the crowd totally justified our decision to play the new stuff.”
Saul Davies’ Verdict : “I’m gutted. I can’t believe it. Relegated to playing Celtic in the UEFA Cup. No, sorry, I’m a big Barcelona fan (the Spanish team were knocked out of the Champions League tonight) – you’ve got to get your priorities right. Ha! It was great. It was hard to come to London and play something people weren’t expecting, but it went down really well.
by Debbie Craig, Music365
Like Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown or Starlight Express, they’ll always be acts for which there is no end to their appeal and longevity. And into that group James are now beginning to fit quite snugly. While critics and floating musical voters may thumb their noses at the hippy Mancs, there remains a staunch and very sizable group of people for whom there’s no better band alive.
But before the disciples can touch some Tim Booth cloth, it’s down to Texan Shea Seger to warm them up on this bitterly cold night in South London. Sounding like a cross between Shania Twain and Sharleen Spiteri, Seger takes to the bare-looking stage and manages to keep the crowd interested but it’s hardly inspiring.
It’s clear from the moment Tim Booth – complete with trademark baseball hat – and his merry band take the stage they’re here to entertain. But not before they’ve tried out a few new songs. Opening with ‘Work It All Out’ isn’t the kind of start you expect to a James concert, it being a dreamy ballad number made all the more soothing by the beautiful lighting that makes the band appear enveloped in sheets of gossamer.
Following up with another new number ‘Stand, Stand, Stand’, the crowd seems appreciative, but are getting restless, a fact Booth acknowledges when he commends the audience on their patience. Another two new songs ‘Senorita’ – thankfully not the expected Latin number but does find Booth doing some Spanish hand movements – and ‘Saving Grace’ both elicit polite applause but it’s with an air of inevitability that the band launch into ‘Say Something’.
As the party atmosphere increases in potency, James manage to slip in another couple of new numbers ‘Junkie’ and ‘Beefcake’ before Booth acknowledges the difficult songs are over and it’s straight into a blistering version of ‘Born of Frustration’. Dedicating ‘She’s a Star’ to all the ladies in the audience, Booth combines the role of showman with a conviction, style and energy few could compete with. ‘Top of the World’ sums up the atmosphere of the evening and finishing with an unplanned encore of ‘Come Home’ is the icing on the cake for everyone.
They may not rub everyone up the same way, but given the right location, James are as much a well-loved British institution as beef dripping or pie-in-a-can, only a lot more tasty. 8/10
Eyewitness Report: Tim Booth asks the audience to retaliate when he says: “If you find someone standing next to you talking through the songs, just punch ‘em”
by Kevin McGill, Dotmusic
Strolling on to a capacity crowd at Brixton Academy, James simply radiate confidence. Not many bands reach this level of self-assuredness onstage, but then again, not many bands can match their ability to fire out an entire catalogue of great singalong pop-rock tunes that span almost two decades.
So it was interesting that they opened with a handful of new songs, a slightly audacious move given the fact that their greatest hits album virtually re-launched their career, but it just about paid off. The new material is more minimalist and skeletal than much of their earlier work, but it still garnered a positive response from the audience, particularly a song that chorused “We’re all junkies”.
‘Say Something’ brought the crowd back to more familiar territory. Most bands would content themselves with four guitars and a keyboard, but after a few songs, four ladies ran onstage, clutching violins and a cello (and no, it wasn’t The Corrs!) While adding a touch of finesse to anthems such as ‘Sometimes’, the string section was ultimately over-ambitious.
The heavily-laden sound veered between very loud and very muggy on some songs, and frontman Tim Booth’s crystal-clear voice gave much needed coherence. Also, the omission of songs such as ‘Out To Get You’ and ‘I Defeat’, is surprising, as the string quartet would’ve been perfect for the softer nuances of such songs.
Following that interlude, James spent the remaining 45 minutes running through classics such as ‘Born of Frustration’ and ‘She’s A Star’. Four guitar players front-stage can sometimes look and sound a bit dull, but James are blessed with the presence of Booth – an absolute marvel onstage. Like Bono, his voice always seems to be at its peak, and his antics are equally entertaining: he constantly dances, pouts, and swirls around the stage, a hybrid ballet-dancing punk rocker.
When the band come back for an encore, an excited version of ‘Laid’ turns the Academy into a sea of hands, and one excited gentleman even clambers onstage. Booth walks away from him, and at the end of the song he quips “If you are going to get onstage you gotta do something”.
The front row read this as a red rag to a bull and when the band kick into a fantastic version of their melodic anthem ‘Come Home’ there is a mini-stage invasion, and what follows can only be described as a geek-of-the-night competition – whether people were trying to imitate Booth or not the results were hilarious.
After nearly being upstaged by the groupies, the band lingered on to lap up the applause. There’s little doubt that James are a formidable force live – they know what they’re here for.
by Emmet Murphy
There are certain moments in a person’s life which they will always remember and cherish. The day you get married is one; as is the birth of your children; your first trip to a football match; the first time you kiss a member of the opposite sex; your first job. These memories and experiences form the backbone of one’s life, very often staying with that person to the grave. It has often been said that seeing James play live is an experience which is on a par with many of those listed above. As live acts go, James have always had a reputation for being both powerful and original: often bringing together the most unlikeliest groups of people, uniting them in a sharing of the spell that James seem to effortlessly cast on their audiences.
Indeed, it is a well-known fact that James’ real strengths lie in their ability to perform live: not merely playing live songs, they possess the guile and the talent to turn an evening’s show into an unforgettable experience for those who were present to witness it. And it was against this extravagant background, that I saw my thirteenth James concert at Brixton Academy, on November 8th. There was a feeling up until quite recently that James had become complacent of late, and had begun to rest their laurels squarely on the formidable shoulders that is their greatest hits. The feeling had been that their live set, although still of a very high standard, somewhat over-relied on Sit Down et al. and that the creativity and invention which had previously been the hallmark of their shows had begun to fade slightly. And this – to be fair – was probably true. Throughout recent years they have played their way through the Best Of many many times, and it had been getting to the point where the setlists were beginning to become (dare I say it) slightly predictable.
Tonight, however, James reversed that trend, and completely tore to shreds the theory that they are a group well past their sell-by date. The biggest testament to that has to lie in the mere fact that they were prepared to play nine new tracks in one show: a feat that lesser bands would never seriously contemplate. Out of those new songs, ‘Senorita’ and ‘English Beefcake’, in particular, stood out as tracks of genuinely outstanding potential. It was, however, thirteen songs into the show before Tim informed the audience that the new songs were over: the responding sense of relief was almost tangible! Magical renditions of ‘Born of Frustration’, ‘How Was It For You?’, and ‘Ring The Bells’ followed, and they were cleverly interspersed with other crowd-pleasers as we reached the show’s finale. As the final notes of ‘Ring The Bells’ filled the grandiose arena that is the Brixton Academy, the band were urged, pleaded with even, to play one final number. And the rendition of ‘Come Home’ that they produced has to rank as one of the best I have heard. It was an awesome end to a show that had, for long periods, threatened to disappoint.
That, however, it did not ultimately do and the vast majority of the crowd were sent out into the cold London air on a massive high. The new songs that they played tonight showed much promise; each was – in its own right – a very good tune, and collectively they promise much. However, there were too many of them! There is a very fine line between not playing enough new material and playing too much, and I think that James have yet to find that line. Whereas before, their sets relied on classic crowd-pleasing hits, this fresh outlook (whilst it is a welcome change) is too extreme. For prolonged periods, it reduced tonight’s crowd from a sweaty, thronging, mass, to a calmed, quiet, arms-folded, listening, audience.
However, as Saul stated at V2000 in August, the tour was essentially intended to be used as a vehicle to test out the new songs, with the tracks being recorded more-or-less as soon as the tour ended. So – the ultimate measure of this tour’s success has to lie with that new record (provisionally due for release sometime in 2001). If that album is successful, then this tour will be remembered as a brilliant stroke of genius. If, however, the album is not a success then it is hard to see how anyone could justify what would ultimately be remembered as nothing more than a pompous series of live public rehearsals.