Say Something / Waltzing Along / Sometimes / Laid / I Know What I’m Here For / God Only Knows / Protect Me (acoustic) / Walking The Ghost / Hymn From A Village / Tomorrow / Space / Born of Frustration / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Destiny Calling / Ring The Bells / Someone’s Got It In For Me / Sound / Out To Get You / Sit Down
by Johnny Yen
I finally arrived at the venue half an hour before James were due to take the stage, I missed most of Turin Brakes but from what I have heard of the band this is not a bad thing. The Telewest arena is a modern arena and not a bad venue apart from the little Hitlers running security.
I had read the reviews of the previous nights shows and wondered what tonight’s show would throw up.. Would Andy or Larry turn up, would they deviate from the usual “Best of” setlist by much. would they play any B-sides from their new B-sides album Ultra? I was anticipating a top show and knew James would not disappoint.
I was hoping they would kick off with Come Home, but not to be, they took the stage and almost straight away burst into Say Something, followed by Waltzing Along, Sometimes and Laid. A “Best of” start if I ever heard one, but I expected this and they did sound fantastic especially Sometimes. If these 4 tracks together did not get the crowd moving, nothing would, “I know what I’m here for” followed, although this is not one of my favourite James tracks it does sound good live, The crowd seemed to be enjoying it anyway.
A few of the crowd at the front were taking the mick out of Tim’s tea-cosy hat, He replied with “Are you questioning my fashion sense? Well it’s better than your shirt.”
God Only Knows took anybody old enough to remember the late 80s / early 90s shows on a time trip, The light show was amazing. The energy of the song sweeping around the arena like an elecrtic charge. Protect Me slowed things back down again.
For me the highlights of the night followed next, One thing I love about James is their ability to surprise, This was one such a moment. The opening haunting bars of Walking the Ghost struck up, I never expected this, and loved every minute of it. Gold Mother was the first James album I bought and the tracks from that era were what got me into them in the first place. A girl next to me was shouting for Hymn From a Village, It would be nice I said but I doubt it, as the words left my mouth they broke into it, I was in heaven. The last time I had heard this live was at Alton Towers. It still sounded as fresh as ever. Watching Saul, he seemed miles away playing for his life, Jim next to him just seemed to be enjoying the occasion and as relaxed as ever
Tomorrow dragged me back to my senses and Space even further. The crowd seemed a bit restless during Space probably because not many of them had heard it, although Getting Away With It got a good reception during this Pleased To Meet You mini phase. I was hoping they would play Fine but not to be… They finished the main set with Ring the Bells which got the crowd moving again.
This did not sound like a band on the verge of a major split. Tim’s leaving just left my mind as I was swept away with the evening till they decided to bring it back to me. They arrived for the first encore and Someone’s Got It In For Me. Tim’s singing was amazing, this was one of the best live songs I have ever heard, the emotion and power in Tim’s voice was incredible. While he was singing I thought how can a band this good not get the recognition it deserves and just disappear into the night, even if they get a new lead singer and or a new name they will not be the same band. An epic version of Sound followed which echoed that thought even further..
They came back on after a very short break and Out To Get You, the crowd were restless but patient, waiting for the inevitable Sit Down. It would have been funny if they had not played it to be honest, but probably cruel as half of the crowd seemed to wait all night for Sit Down alone.
Anyway just as they were about to break into it, Tim stopped proceedings, “Can’t we start this with a different intro?” he asked the band. They looked at him and each other for a few seconds, not seeming to know what to do. This was a surreal moment that seemed to last forever till Tim sang the first line himself with no music. Then the crowd joined in, then the band. This was the liveliest I had seen the crowd all night. The people in the seats even decided to move and it tied up the night nicely. It seemed to be over too quick and that was it – the band were gone.
On reflection this was a special gig for me. The Gold Mother tracks and Hymn From a Village made it something else. The crowd was not the wildest in the world but seemed happy enough. The setlist was mostly expected but the inclusion of certain unexpected tracks was a nice surprise. No Larry or Andy was a disappointment and I wished they had played Come Home or Top of the World but you can’t ask for everything can you?
I have been to many James gigs over the years and this was not the best I’ve seen but it was a great performance. The band were in good form and Tim’s voice exceptional and the fact they played Hymn From a Village made the ticket price worth it alone. It’s a shame that all good things must come to an end, and who can replace James as the best live act around? Your guess is as good as mine. No British groups come close. I am just glad I have seen them play live. Every gig I have seen has been unique and I have some fantastic memories of some very special nights.