Say Something / Waltzing Along / Laid / I Know What I’m Here For / English Beefcake / God Only Knows / Protect Me (acoustic) / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Stutter / Vervaceous / She’s A Star / Born of Frustration / Come Home / Tomorrow / Top Of The World / Sound / Out To Get You / Sit Down
review by oneofthethree
An amicable split? On tonight’s evidence, you have to question this. A set limited to 18 tracks and lasting little more than an hour and a half, one band member tantrum, virtual ignorance of the last album and the general feeling that some of the band would rather be somewhere else.
Tonight’s performance can almost be drawn straight down the middle – singles and non-singles.
The non-singles, in particular Vervaceous, Stutter, English Beefcake and Out To Get You – resonate with a vibrancy and urgency that characterise James greatest moments and their biggest strengths of improvisation and the sheer depth of musical talent that makes you and I keep coming back for more. Stutter and Vervaceous are augmented as ever by a stunning light show, with Andy Diagram taking us back to 1990 during Stutter wandering around the stage like a madman with a light, shining it on the roof and on the band as the sound built to its cresecendo. Out To Get You benefitted from a wonderful improvised ending as the song was thrown into the set spontaneously at the end.
Protect Me is performed wonderfully by Tim, Jim and Adrian acoustically, and the Birmingham crowd, with an odd exception, demonstrates that it can do more than dance along to the hits by listening attentively.
Andy Diagram once again made an appearance, even featuring on Tomorrow which ends the set. His presence adds new life to Born of Frustration and God Only Knows. Jaws visibly drop around as Born of Frustration reaches a trumpet-fuelled cresecendo.
Sit Down is pulled off wonderfully at the end, with a minimalist first verse and chorus, before Dave crashes in with drums and the rest of the band join in to a rousing elongated ending, with the crowd singing throughout.
The rest of the show was a little disappointing, James by numbers, playing songs they’ve played a million times before without adding anything new and exciting to them, the old James trademark. Tim is active enough, prowling the stage and throwing himself into the vocals, but James have always been about much more than just Tim. The crowd love it, because the songs are great songs. There’s nothing wrong with the performances per se, but a line from a famous ditty springs to mind : “If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor”.
Saul, obviously enraged by something, left the stage during Come Home and didn’t appear to add his traditional flourish to Top of the World and the first half of Sound. His anger did at least fuel the songs at the back of the set and build into them the emotion and power that James are famed for.
A little disappointing then, let’s hope by the time we get to Wembley, whatever is going on behind the scene is sorted out and we get to see the real James.