June 2002, by Jonathan Morris, © What DVD Magazine
We sit down with James frontman Tim Booth, who tells us their live DVD was not a project born of frustration…
James former lead singer Tim Booth had not been idle in the months since the band’s final concerts. He’s completed a third draft of his screenplay, he’s written an album worth of songs and he’s been pursuing acting roles. He’s been taking people off to the Canary Islands, for “mad shamanic” dance workshops in the mornings and trips to see dolphins and whales in the afternoon. And he’s also been working away on the new James DVD Getting Away With It Live.
“I had a problem,” admits the now shaven-headed singer. “Before we’d edited it, the only music DVD I’d bought was of a Bruce Springsteen gig and it was phenomenal. It haunted me. It was all long, held close-ups and our footage didn’t have that – it was all ‘Pow! Pow!’. So we had an intense four 14-hour days re-editing it, as I wanted more held shots, but there weren’t many to choose from.”
However, Tim is unreserved in his enthusiasm for the result of their labours in the edit suite. “I believe that James were one of the great live bands. Sometimes our records suffered in peoples’ opinion because they were being compared against the live versions, which is an impossible comparison because hearing a song on record is always going to seem flatter, it’s like a two-dimensional version. With the DVD, you get the full three-dimensional version.
“In the last five years, it’s been hard for James to get out of a certain ghetto, and so a lot of new audiences hadn’t come to see us play live,” he adds. “So I think this DVD is probably the best way to experience James, to get the power of the songs live. And to see what you missed.”
The concert was obviously emotionally charged, for both the audience and the band – and for Booth in particular.
“We felt that nothing could go wrong,” he says. “For me, performing is about trying to get as high as possible on your music, on generating, well, love, and taking that to the audience, then feeding their reaction back into the music. It’s like an energy loop; the energy from the audience boosts us, so we can go higher on the next song.”
“That’s what you’re witnessing on the DVD. The whole thing escalates as it goes along – a lot of the audience has been with us for ten, maybe 12, some of them nearer 18 years – and they were there to say goodbye,” he adds.
It’s quite difficult to imagine what it must be like for someone sitting down to watch footage of themselves performing in concert.
“It will be amazing for me,” enthuses Tim, “because it’s something I’ve let go of. I think I’ll watch it with a mixture of sadness and pride and appreciation and love. Then I probably won’t watch it again for two or three years. But in general, I’m proud of everything we did in James, including the b-sides, so I know that I’m going to be really proud of this DVD.”
Is he not even embarrassed by memories of students doing the special sitting-down dance to Sit Down? “Not at all. Not in the least.”