Say Something / Waltzing Along / Sometimes / Laid / I Know What I’m Here For / God Only Knows / Someone’s Got It In For Me / Vervaceous / Protect Me (acoustic) / Out To Get You / Hymn From A Village / Johnny Yen / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Tomorrow / Born of Frustration / Ring The Bells / Top Of The World / Sound / Space / She’s A Star / Come Home / Sit Down
This was the best James gig for a very very long time. Marred, if that’s ever the right word to use with this band, by technical problems when Saul’s equipment was lost completely half way through the set, they proved once again that when they really want it, they still have the capacity to stun and astound that marks them apart from all their contemporaries. Adrian in particular was on fire adding movement around the stage to his undoubted playing talents.
From the first bars of Say Something, it’s evident that whatever had been affecting them before on this tour had been blown away. Maybe it was the announcement that James will continue after Tim removing any residual bad feeling or fear in the band, but they were functioning as a unit, as one, but without the constraint of fitting into a pattern. Waltzing Along, Sometimes, Laid and I Know What I’m Here For shot past, each imbued with a sense of urgency and the feeling of real power. Manchester loved it as my sore ribs from the barrier will testify.
Tim prefaced God Only Knows with the dedication of “a regurgitated James song for regurgitated older James fans”. There certainly wasn’t anything vomit-inducing about this track, Tim playing the preaching messiah in the improvised middle section, before Andy’s trumpet kicked in, adding to the already building melee.
Slowing things down, James swooped into Someone’s Got It In For Me, a song that benefits exponentially from the live treatment, building to a crescendo that was simply stunning in its power and emotion. Vervaceous followed suit and was rightfully given the respect it deserves by an educated Manchester crowd. James are, were and probably always will be in whatever form they continue, more than just a singles band and these two songs won over any doubters.
Most of the band now left the stage to be replaced by Larry Gott, guitar hero to the older masses of James fans. Tim introduced him to a rapturous response, cracking a joke about Larry’s self-designed chair requiring cushions. What followed next was a simply stunning acoustic version of Protect Me from Jim, Tim and Larry, with the two guitar partners gazing at each other past Tim throughout the song. Larry proved he had lost none of the unique style that made him so integral to James on Laid and before, adding little flourishes to a wonderfully poignant acoustic song.
Out To Get You followed, played by the 1993 line-up of Tim, Jim, Saul, Larry, Mark and Dave. Tears were shed around the arena as Larry strummed the stunning lines that made this song so close to the hearts of so many James fans and won over so many on the Best Of. His backing vocals took the song still further into the stratosphere.
Temporarily without Saul who had lost all power to his amps (and who, to his credit, handled it in true Jamesian fashion by wandering on and off stage, adding what he could), James burst into Hymn From A Village. Manchester went ape, proving what we’ve been telling the band for years that these older songs are not out of place in the set, Tim hammering out the lyrics like a man possessed with Larry’s guitar again taking centre stage. From folk-driven angst in front of a few hundred in 1985 to 16,000 hit-thirsty punters in 2001, the song sits proudly alongside anything James have ever written since.
And then it just got better. All the debate about the best-ever Johnny Yen was swiftly dismissed. Mike and Adrian returned and the stage was full with nine Jameses. Saul’s violin fought with Andy’s trumpet which fought with Larry and Adrian’s twin guitars with Kulas adding more shade to the sound. Dave beat the drums like a madman and Mark’s understated keyboards merely provided the framework that held the whole thing together. Tim strutted the stage, prowling, tracking down the band one by one and confronting them, forcing them to take it up a notch. Simply stunning.
Larry and Andy left and James 2001 launched into Getting Away With It, the band’s adopted theme tune and what a tune it is. Criminally ignored by the public (and Mercury if we’re going to name names), the song is a uniting rallying call from band to fans and they respond wildly.
Andy returns to add his trumpet flourishes to a massive possessed Tomorrow endowed with a power all of its own. Born of Frustration is huge, again the trumpet taking the song to new higher plains. Tim went walkabout stage right, climbing way into the first tier. It’ll look good on the DVD, but it’s a shame that by doing so, it took the attention away from a stunning band performance. Ring The Bells followed, this time with Tim firmly on the stage, and built again to a stunning cresecendo, the highlight being a rap by Andy over the closing guitar-fuelled section.
For the first encore, Jim, Mark, Adrian and Larry returned to play the opening bars of Top Of The World without Tim and Saul. The vocals came in and the lights spun round to reveal Tim high up in the seats from where he proceeded to sing the whole song. Saul came in with violin directly opposite in the arena to Tim.
As the two made their way back to stage, the band extended the intro to Sound with a superb piece of improvisation by Larry. Back to the full complement of nine, Sound was even more powerful than ever. A song of ten minutes plus has to maintain the interest throughout and James succeed tonight. The band stop playing to enable Jim and Saul a wonderful piece of interaction before building to a stunning climax.
Coming back for a second encore, Space is a strange choice to open it, but the lyrics have gained an extra poignancy given recent announcements and the power of the performance is simply stunning. She’s A Star follows and whilst ecstatically received doesn’t quite match the highs of the rest of the set.
Come Home sends the crowd in a heaving mass, the band ratch everything up and it’s like Madchester had never gone away.
So to the final song, Tim acknowledges Mark’s understated and often ignored contribution to the band by insisting the crowd listen to his elongated intro. Saul dashes off stage to drag Larry from the seats to join in. The first verse is minimalist with Tim and the crowd singing before the band crash in, sending the crowd wild. An extended ending with all nine on stage is a fitting end to a wonderful night and Tim’s long association with James in Manchester.
So you’ve probably worked out that I enjoyed this show. The problems of previous nights were simply blown away. Larry’s presence was an undoubted highlight and Andy’s contributions pushed the sound yet further. They added that extra dimension that, despite consistently outstanding performances from the band since 1997, has been missing. That in no way denigrates Adrian or Michael’s contribution to James, but James since 1997 have been a band rather than a collection of musicians. There’s a very fine line between the two and James stepped back over that line last night. How many bands can overcome such terrible technical problems and turn it into a success?
They still didn’t play What For though. Oh well, we can forgive them that.
by Sean Smith
It’s Thursday evening and we (my wife and I) are making our way from Co. Limerick in Ireland, for what will be the last James show that we will probably ever see. This is our fourth show together and my fifth (starting with the now fabled Alton Towers gig.) We flew in Friday morning and spent the day anticipating what would surely be their finest hour. We arrived at the MEN at about 8:30, just missing Turin Brakes, I wasn’t particularly upset by this, we were only there for one thing – to say farewell to the boys after many, many years.
They started with Say Something, one of their better songs, Tim really belted this one out, absolutely superb, followed by a string of their ‘best of ‘ hits, Waltzing along, Sometimes, a rather tame Laid (tame in that Tim didn’t go running around the stadium for it, as he had done the last couple of times I had seen them do it live.) A brilliantly triumphant IKWIHF followed by the gem God Only Knows – which is superb, and which had lost none of its intensity through the passing of the years. Someone’s got it in for me was next, which is a beautiful song, especially live, at this point my throat was starting to hurt from all of the singing. Vervaceous was hauntingly sad, and then we got to see Larry again. This was what I really wanted to see more than anything else, with Andy back it was the full Monty, all the boys back together, the version of Protect Me that they did together brought back all the old memories, With Jim, Tim and Larry on centre stage, it was very emotional, what a beautiful song and what a wonderful moment – actually hearing it live for the first time acoustically – ‘He can still play a bit’ mocked Tim afterwards, there was never any doubting it. It was fantastic to see the seven of them on stage again. Out To Get You was restarted after Larry wasn’t happy with the volume of his guitar and we all revelled in seeing them all together again. Hymn From a Village and Johnny Yen followed taking me back a long time – still very powerful songs and wonderfully executed.
Finally we got to hear some of the new stuff, Getting away with it showed us that James are still a force to be reckoned with, the music – simple yet effective. Tomorrow, BOF and Ring the Bells followed, giving us more of what James are all about, brilliant music with great intensity. Top of the world was done with Tim and Saul on opposite sides of the stadium, Saul’s Violin playing dreamy and sad; a superb performance which will look good on DVD. The band then treated us to what they are very good at. Sound! What a song this is live, I could have listened to the band all night playing this, Adrian and Michael providing the booming sounds, and Larry back to pick out the notes as Saul and Jim did their usual live improvisation, I will miss that song. We knew at this point that we were all running out of time, it seemed to me that the boys were enjoying it so much that we might be here all night, a final encore gave us Space, She’s a Star, a fitting Come Home before ending with Sit Down.
A brilliant performance and a fitting monument to a great band, I was delighted to seeall the cameras, I can’t wait for the DVD.
For the first half of the gig I couldn’t help but be sad, how could this all be ending, what would we do now? Sure James will still be there, but it will never be the same. We have been fortunate you and I. James have always been our little secret, I don’t care that they never got the acclaim that their music so richly deserves. If they had got that, which they were in real danger of doing around the Seven album, then I don’t think that any of it would be the same. James for me are what they are because they have never received the plaudits of the press. We the fans know what they are.
Above the sadness of the what the concert actually meant though, the music started to take over, absolutely no band can touch what James are able to give on Stage. I would like to thank the boys for all the memories. I wish Tim well for the future, and will keep an eye out for any new material. Any new James material will always be welcome and I look forward to that to.
One thing I would like to say is that with the release of the Manchester gig, I hope that they don’t cut it, or edit it. Give us everything, Warts and all. It would be a shame not to see how the band reacted to Saul’s equipment breakdown (Jim suggested that Saul could dance whilst he waited for the equipment to be fixed!) For me it would be terrible shame to cut any of it out. Thanks for everything and Good Luck to them all.
by Seb Ramsey, Manchester Evening News
Tim Booth looks wistful as he says “Good evening, hometown, good evening our roots and support for so long – thanks for coming.”
And that’s as sentimental as the rhetoric gets.
James boasts one of rock’s most loyal fanbases and obviously nowhere more so than in Manchester. So it was hardly surprising that the Arena was packed to bursting for Booth’s swansong.
For many, not least the departing Booth, it was a poignant emotional occasion.
But it was also a good reminder of why this band have managed to go as far as they have.
Their set breathes the sort of variety and power that only a handful of acts can ever hope to muster.
Anthem after anthem bursts forth and the crowd sing along, eyes closed, hands waving.
They kicked off with Say Something and the soaring Sometimes. By the time they hit Laid and God Only Knows, the Arena was seething at its impressive best.
Booth’s dancing has always bodypopped a fine and entertaining line between the exultant and the absurd and this performance was no exception.
The rubber man was on fine form, gyrating and convulsing with his trademark abandon.
James have 19 years of material to go at and their final Manchester set chronicled the whole unorthodox journey, from folk oddities via the outskirts of Madchester to stadium-filling superstars.
Guitarist Larry Gott and trumpet player Andy Diagram drew big cheers from the crowd as they returned to the fray, swelling the band to nine and adding extra nostalgia to the romp.
A rash of technical glitches put violinist/guitarist Saul Davies out of action, sending the band scurrying for the pre-Saul crowd pleasers Hymn From A Village and Johnny Yen. Back to full strength and jumping 12 years forward, Tomorrow was as effusive as ever and Booth joined the crowd for the Born of Frustration singalong.
Top Of The World began two sets of encores with Booth and Davies mid-crowd, spotlighted and counterpoised below opposite balconies.
Come Home and Sit Down were a suitably rousing send-off, and the band walked to the front of the stage and waved goodbye.
Live is what James always did best. Tim Booth will be missed.
by Peter Hilton
Whilst on the way to the MEN arena I was thinking what to expect would be it be G:mex of 1990 or 1993 would it rate as one of the best of the 16 shows I’ve seen? At this moment I don’t know, could it be one of the gigs to go down where you would have to say I was there? How would Larry play and Andy I did not know or care
My wife had a little smile on her face as she said to me “well enjoy, as this is the last one we will go to” I don’t know where this relief or whether she was a little sad. One of our first dates was to go to see James at Liverpool in 97. That night they played Out to get you and it seemed as they were playing it for us, I know they weren’t but that’s how they can grab you with the heart felt lyrics.
The band entered from behind a curtain and I had seen the arena in such a way and it was so different than the other shows, I knew that I did not want the night to end. James have been a part of me since late 1986 early 1987 when a work friend gave me a copy of Stutter then I was on a hunt to get the vinyl of the factory stuff.
The band seemed different to me, even though Larry and Andy were on stage during the show, this was not it, it came to me when Tim wanted to leave when Bob’s equipment broke, it was Jim went up to Tim and said something the Band stopped on stage to perform Hymn from a Village and Jonny Yen, Jim was smiling, yet all the band were smiling at first from some time. The thing which I could put my finger on was that they were happy and enjoying the moment.
The set started with Say Something, Sometimes and Laid this followed by God only Knows, this is what I can remember of the set list but the set list went out of the window with technical problems when Bob’s equipment broke. As I said Tim wanted to leave but the band played on, Just like on the Titanic!
The high light of the show for me was Top Of the World, when Tim and Bob on opposite sides of the arena held the crowd with Tim’s singing and Bob’s violin playing a magical moment.
The best song for me was Tomorrow played with a trumpet another first for the night.
James did two encores with the evening brought to an end with Come Home and Sit Down.
The band didn’t want to finish but they did 2.15minutes after starting the show. They left the crowd wanting more and if they could have played all night the crowd would have sung and danced and scream for more.
The best way to James to finish any show is people wanting more and this is what they did
I can’t believe it’s over but for the time being without Tim, but James will be James as the spirit will carry on as they did when Paul, Gavin, Larry and Andy left