An opening slot at a contemporary music festival at the ICA in London, introduced and compered by the late Tony Wilson. Tim performed with Lee “Muddy” Baker and Lisa Lindley-Jones.
Wave Hello / Discover / Down To The Sea / Laid / Falling Down / Careful What You Say / Sometimes / Bone / Fall In Love With Me
After a long introduction by Manchester legend and Factory supremo Tony Wilson, Tim appeared on stage with two band members Lee on guitar and Lisa on keyboards. As with September’s Manchester show, Tim announced that this was to be an acoustic showcase for tracks he was writing with Lee for his new album due out some point next year.
The ICA is a tiny venue, only holding 300-400 people and it was probably less than half full at this stage which was to make for a rather surreal environment. A half-full unannounced acoustic performance is an unusual way to introduce songs to a new audience and to roadtest them. But here we go. Tim came on in a jacket, black t-shirt and dark combat trousers, bearing an uncanny resemblance to Michael Stipe and sporting a goatee beard.
Announcing set opener Shame as “a song about fear and commitment”, it’s immediately clear that whilst Tim has a new band, the lyrical content and intensity of the songs and performance have not changed. The acoustic backing of Lee’s guitar offsets Tim’s direct vocals.
Discover sees keyboard player Lisa join the performance and this song boasts an even more intense vocal in the verse which turns into a repetitive “who I am, who I am” chorus. It even takes a lyric from the early live versions of The Shining – the reference to the Nazi and the Jew. This song does however appear to have lost something in the transition to the acoustic format and should benefit from the full electric treatment of a full band performance.
Down To The Sea is the first familiar track of the evening, having been premiered on Dom Joly’s BBC3 show earlier this year. The tune and lyrics remain pretty faithful to that version except for an almost accapella section at the start of the song and after the first chorus. Tim stops the song half way through to castigate talkers in the audience, advising them to “fuck off to the bar” .
Laid is next and gets an immediate reaction from the audience. Lee describes it as “crap and the worst song in the set”, someone in the audience shouts for Sit Down and towards the end Tim ventures to the front row to take someone’s mobile phone from their ear. The song itself is performed extremely slowly to allow Tim to fully enunciate the lyrics, an improvement on some of the faster acoustic versions of Laid from over the years.
Keyboard player Lisa suffers technical problems before they launch into Falling Down (not the Pleased To Meet You track) and there’s some on-stage banter between the three which suggests there is a healthy and hopefully fruitful working relationship between the three and any future band members. This track features some lovely high-register singing from Tim and excellent vocal interplay between the three. The song is about a young girl’s lost innocence.
Next track Hold You To Your Words (at a guess) has an elongated intro and phonetic singing which doesn’t really work in the acoustic environment. Once the song starts it improves and it has a nice flute interlude from Lisa, but it’s probably the weakest song of the evening and would have probably have benefitted from an electric performance particularly in the chorus. The song drifts off into an unnecessarily elongated ending again.
Sometimes is next and is a very brave choice and I don’t recollect James ever trying this acoustically, but it’s a success. Again it gets the recognition from the crowd that the new tracks obviously don’t get. It doesn’t lose the pace and intensity of the electric live versions from James days and Tim delivers a faultless vocal.
Final new track One is the best of the evening and even at this early stage a good bet for a potential single. Benefitting from a backing track, it’s the most instant of the new songs and has a brilliant refrain based around “one gets rich, one gets poor, life’s a bitch and I’m her whore. Life just takes you to the bone”. It’s also got the most energetic musical backing from Lee and Lisa as well. It’s also probably the best indication of what the album will sound like when it’s released next year given Tim’s previous comments about the album having a more “funk and groove” feel to it.
Final track is Fall In Love With Me, the Booth and the Bad Angel track, and this is given a very minimalist instrumental treatment, which doesn’t fully do the song justice. Given it’s one of Tim’s favourite songs, the vocals are as passionate and heartfelt as ever and that pulls the song through.
The audience reaction at the end is extremely appreciative and the venue had filled out considerably from the start. The chatter died down during the set which bodes well as the assumption is people started listening to the songs. The new material sounds promising, but most of it probably was not best served by the acoustic environment, the half-full venue and the crowd’s unfamiliarity with it. But Tim’s obvious enthusiasm for the songs and his interaction with the other band members bode extremely well for the future. There’s a huge sense of relief that there is some sort of life after 2001. With repeated listening, I’m sure most of the new tracks will sit proudly alongside established favourites – it’s time for Tim to bring them to a wider audience.
review by Jen
Tony Wilson announces that the programme produced for the event is “crap” and that instead of describing the acts he chose as the ones he wished he’d signed, it should be “the ones that got away”. After a couple of anecdotes, including how Tony found out James were leaving Factory, Tim appears with his band, looking, quite frankly, great.
Tim informs the audience at some point that they are “Witnessing the beginnings of a band”, and the impression taken from the evening is just that. Throughout the set, hints were gleaned as to how their work will develop. How well they work together was clear, from Lisa asking Tim to listen to how her introduction to Falling Down sounds before they launch into the proper performance to Lee’s jesting about Laid being the “worst song in the set”. The vocal harmonies between them, and how their instruments compliment Tim’s vocals, made for exciting listening and it was clear they were here to experiment.
Initially, talkers in the audience were marring the performances; however, Tim told them to “fuck off to the bar, we don’t need you”, much to the appreciation of those who were there to listen. The second half of Down To The Sea was a lot stronger after that, finishing with the lyrical image of “I’m going to wipe away my tears from your face”.
Someone, inevitably, asked for Sit Down and Tim told the audience that is was the “first time” (surprisingly) it had happened. He also commented at one point that the way the songs were performed were completely different to the studio versions “but that’s acoustic sets for you”. Furthermore, he displays his appreciation of the audience he earlier chastised by telling them that he can “feel the quality of your listening”.
Highlights of the set included a terrific performance of Laid and a wonderful rendition of Sometimes. When Tim tells the technicians, “We’ll need the backing track for this one”, the expectation that something special is coming up immediately occurs. One, which Tim said was the song that was closest to how the rest of the album would sound, begins, and immediately delivers.
To finish was a vocal led performance of “Fall In Love With Me”, which Tim introduced as a “love spell”. Tim’s voice is strong enough to carry the song through on its own, and it made for a haunting performance.
Overall, whilst the experiments didn’t always work, the set was a success. The album is due out at some point next year. I for one can’t wait.