Come Home / Waltzing Along / Ring The Bells / Hymn From A Village / Who Are You? / Chameleon / Play Dead / Chain Mail / Out To Get You / Five-O / Upside / Downside / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Say Something / Johnny Yen / Tomorrow / Sit Down / Gold Mother / Laid / Sometimes / She’s A Star
review by oneofthethree
It’s getting really difficult to write these reviews now, thinking of new superlatives to use to describe the performances of the band at these shows. Physically and mentally the emotion of the tour is taking its toll too. I’m losing my voice rapidly, getting by on three or four hours sleep due to adrenalin post-gig. I’ve done whole James tours before, but that was post 1997 and James then aren’t what James are now. I hope those that are newer to the James family now understand what us old farts meant when we talked about the James live experience. I know it was difficult given the standard of post 1997 performances, but this is different, very different.
Come Home opens with the whole band behind a curtain, before it crashes to the floor as Tim starts to sing, wearing the rather horrible check suit he had on in Glasgow (bang goes the theory of the last minute backstreet hire shop). It’s tighter than in previous nights, the crowd have the space to dance, the slope allows most of them to see, so it’s not as hot or as heavy as previous nights. Probably as well as most of us are not getting any younger. Waltzing Along has the crowd near me singing the introduction tune and there’s a lovely piece of improvisation by Larry during the song. Ring The Bells is stunning, there’s an improvised ending again that builds and builds and builds with Tim adding his lyrics over the top.
The next song is dedicated to The Twang who have been pestering for the song since the tour began. They got their way in Birmingham on Tuesday and Hymn From A Village has been kept in the set. There are pockets of recognition in the crowd, some people continue to dance even though they don’t know it, and it doesn’t sound 20+ years old. Tim alludes to the fact it’s probably older than some of the crowd before introducing Who Are You as a song written a couple of months ago. The reception it gets bodes well for airplay and sales and it being a loved part of the James canon. Chameleon sounds much stronger tonight, it has an interesting beginning which I can’t work out whether it is a screw up or not. Tim’s lyrics in the end section are a little clearer too.
Play Dead is the first of a number of a songs to benefit from the wider expanse of the stage in terms of lighting opportunities. The strobe effects on this song complement the electronic hum of the song perfectly.
Chain Mail lopes and lollops, in a nice way, to its crashing chorus. There are again pockets of dancing and singing around the venue, a sign that some of the older fans have been enticed back into the reunion, but by the end the reception is as strong as for almost everything else that was played at this gig. Fresh As A Daisy indeed.
Except Out To Get You. Whoever put this on the Best Of is probably worthy of a knighthood for services to Jamesdom (hey, I did say these reviews were becoming a struggle). Grown men cry, arms are raised aloft, people choose to sing either Tim or Larry’s part. All this against a very simple but stunning white background against which the band appear in silhouette form. By the end, Saul and Larry are almost eyeball to eyeball, Tim is down on his knees. The highlight of the evening. Perhaps the tour. 4000+ people are in unison.
Five-O, musically, is just as good. Laid still is, in my view, the creative peak of the band to date. The simplicity, the mastery of the tempo just radiate throughout. Larry’s slide sends tingles racing up the spine.
I’ve probably bored you all senseless going on about how great I think Upside / Downside is. And it didn’t disappoint again tonight. The crowd reaction is hopefully a gauge that there is a genuine interest in a future James and this isn’t just a celebration of the past. Let’s hope the band can get something out to us sooner rather than later. It’d be a shame to lose the momentum and massive goodwill this tour has given them.
Into the closing “hits” section, Getting Away With It is quite subdued tonight, it doesn’t quite take off in the way it has previously. Say Something sees Tim making his customary foray into the audience and we get crowdsurfers. To me, Say Something has been the one disappointment of the tour, it’s felt on nights it’s thrown out because it has to be, but it’s a minor quibble.
Johnny Yen is gorgeous. Actually I’ll rephrase that as not to encourage members of my messageboard. The performance is gorgeous. Backed with the strobes, there is an urgency, a passion that twenty one year old album tracks shouldn’t by most laws be allowed to have. The crowd treat it like an old friend, Tim talks about Iggy Pop, the band go off on tangent after tangent, yet remain utterly coherent.
Tomorrow, which Saul tried to play before Johnny Yen, stops after about half a minute. There’s some minor altercation which seems like good spirits, the crowd hurl themselves into it and the song has all the power in the world. Then, to close, Sit Down is sung faithfully by the crowd. Upstairs, security adopt their traditional Brixton jackboot tendencies and frown on those wishing to stand.
Following what seems like an eternity the band come back on and start Gold Mother. The only predictable thing about this song is that it’ll be totally different from any other night on the tour. Tim goes stage right and gets six people up on stage to dance. Four appear to be people he knows (by after-show wristbands) and two more. Their frenetic dancing (and a girl on girl kiss, which I missed) just adds to the utter madness of the song. At one point, Tim positions himself between the dancers and join in.
Laid sounds fresher than previous nights on the tour, by this point the crowd is a mess of steaming bodies hollering back most of the words. Sometimes, once Saul lets Tim speak, is introduced as being about connection. The song spins and spirals to its conclusion before the lights come up and James greet their London audience, won over by the sheer magnitude of what they’ve witnessed. London has lost the cool that Tim had alluded to at some length earlier.
They come back to perform the slowed down version of She’s A Star. The crowd sing back every word, yet it’s still a subdued way to end a set which so many highs, and almost no lows. Again, not quite up there with the heights of Glasgow Saturday and Newcastle, but miles and miles ahead of 99.9% of the bands ever to grace this famous stage.