Careful What You Say / Discover / Down To The Sea / Five-O / Wave Hello / Eh Mamma / Sometimes / Love Hard / Dance Of The Bad Angel / Bone / Butterfly’s Dream / In The Darkness / Monkey God / Fall In Love
review by oneofthethree
So, Tim’s first electric gig with the new band outside of Brighton, the first test on the road of the new band, the new songs and what sort of reaction there would be. Disappointing, the Wedgewood Rooms weren’t full, not surprising I suppose because of the nascent state of the band and the fact that the publicity campaign hasn’t kicked in yet with the album two months away.
What’s noticeable immediately is a much harder edge to the sound. Freed from the restrictions of the Sussex Arts Centre in terms of noise, Milo is a revelation on drums, his high-energy full-on performance reminiscent of an early-day Gavan Whelan but with the tightness of Dave Baynton-Power. Robin on bass, sax and guitar demonstrates a presence and an ability to take control of a song that we hadn’t seen at the two Brighton shows. Lee was on particularly good form, the chemistry between him and Tim is a joy to watch, amusing, piss-taking but also very affectionate. Lisa’s backing vocals are stunning and add real colour to the songs even though they are often sadly under-utilised. Her solo performance of one of her own compositions whilst there’s an issue with the backing tracks before Bone was simply breathtaking. The real beauty of this band is that they’re not overawed by Tim and his past and he doesn’t act the big pop star with them.
The show is a little up and down because the momentum is broken from time to time by technical problems and overlong changeovers, but this is all forgiveable at this stage considering this is only their third gig and their first in a full-size venue. Once they’re ironed out and the band get going, the performance and the inter-band chemistry shines through. The audience though is receptive, given that there are nine songs in the set that most of them will never have heard, three Booth and the Bad Angel songs that were very rarely aired live and two James classics, Five-O and Sometimes from the Laid era. There’s no open complaints about the lack of familiar material.
Highlights of the set included a stunning version of Butterfly’s Dream off Booth and the Bad Angel. It’s good to hear Tim going back to this album that never got a real airing live first time round rather than taking the easier option of James’ more familiar back catalogue. Eh Mamma, In The Darkness and Love Hard benefit from the harder sound whilst in contrast Wave Hello is slowed down slightly from previous versions and sounds more measured in its delivery and a fine choice for the first single as Tim indicated it would be. Discover and Careful What You Say remain as passionate and yearning as previous performances and Monkey God is probably the prime example of the funkier undercurrent that runs through much of the set.
Five-O and Sometimes drew the biggest cries of recognition of the evening. Five-O maintained the wistful beauty of the original but with a rocky edge, a good choice for a trip back to the James catalogue. Sometimes, with Lisa’s gorgeous rambling keyboard taking the lead, sounds as driven in this guise than the guitar-led strum of its James incarnation.
An intriguing night of a band presenting songs that are relatively new to them to an audience to whom they are brand new. There’s a passion, a sense of purpose and celebration that’s bristling through and it’s fun, real fun, from the banter between songs, the way the band encourage each other during the songs and the general atmosphere on stage. At one point Lee remarks about Tim “you have seen him having this much fun, have you?” to which Tim responds “I took the microphone stand from up my arse.” Not a pleasant image, but the point was made. When the enjoyment coming from the stage is matched from an audience familiar with the songs and the expectation of a set chock full of James songs diminshes, there are going to be some really special evenings coming up. I can hardly wait.