Come Home / Destiny Calling / Ring the Bells / Seven / Who Are You / Chameleon / Honest Joe / Lullaby / Riders / Out To Get You / Don’t Wait That Long / Upside Downside / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Sometimes / Tomorrow / Sit Down / Gold Mother / Waltzing Along / Laid / She’s A Star
review by oneofthethree
Here we go again, here we go again, the show is just beginning. Just when you thought things couldn’t get better, this band just, almost effortlessly, step up and deliver something more intense and more passionate than last time. Thursday’s show had been a very high watermark for James in terms of London gigs, where the audiences had traditionally been less enthusiastic, less ready to celebrate with the band. Tonight just raised that bar, not just in terms of London, but the whole tour.
Come Home opens the show. As the previous night, it starts with the band behind a curtain, which drops to reveal them just as Tim starts the lyrics. But it’s different, the opening doesn’t give away the song, the fluidity in the new arrangements allow Larry and Mark to paint different guitar lines and keyboards over the base of Dave’s drums and Jim’s bass. The crowd are already eating out of the band’s hands.
Destiny Calling, Ring The Bells and Seven merely confirm the initial impression that this is going to be another special night in what is becoming an affirmation that James are here to claim their rightful crown as the most exciting live band in the country. There’s no regimented setlist, no NME fuelled hype that leaves half the crowd knowing three or four big hits and nothing else. If you take your eyes off Tim, you miss Saul, who is always, if nothing else, unpredictable, or Larry, who is an absolute joy to watch. You have to wonder what would have happened had he not left.
Who Are You seems to confirm that although Radio 1 is too interested in the Kaiser Chiefs, Arctic Monkeys, Kasabian et al – good bands but limited in their scope, the band’s music is getting across to some of their audience. The internet, if used judiciously, could be a big big tool for James to get themselves back into the wider public perception. That and Chameleon do calm down the crowd as they’re not as well known as what’s gone before, but the reception at the end is no less muted.
Honest Joe leaves people standing open-mouthed. This side of James, also evidenced by tracks such as Stutter and Jam J when played live, isn’t one that’s too familiar, but the power, the excitement, the adrenalin and the sheer wall of noise leave many stood around me simply awestruck.
As if to hammer home the contrast, Lullaby follows. It’s given the respect the subject matter and the fragility of the song deserve. With a few notable exceptions, the crowds on this tour have been exceptionally receptive to the nuggets James have mined from their back catalogue. Riders is a case in point. A twenty year old album track is met with hands in the air clapping, the song as fresh as it ever was, a tumult of applause at the point the song jerks to a halt before starting again.
Out To Get You is, as it has been since it was reintroduced, one of the highlights of the set. The crowd see it as a rallying cry. Some join in Larry’s backing vocals, some play Tim, some wave their arms in the air, and the rest just stand in awe. At point, Saul, Jim, Larry and Tim converge centre stage, then Jim faces Larry, whilst Tim faces Saul, inches away from each other’s faces. The reception is simply astonishing. If you were to put yourself in the band’s shoes, this would have to be the ultimate confirmation that this is where they should be, that they’re doing the right thing. And you’d be blown away by this reaction.
Don’t Wait That Long is the unfortunate song left to follow in its wake. It’s the one possible lower point in the evening. The crowd seems to have temporarily shot its load and the end section is a little messy, but it’s all relative I guess.
Before launching into Upside Downside, Tim urges London to let down its image as capital of cool. I think the audience already had. Upside is, again, everything that’s exciting, fresh and alive about this reunion. Half-finished maybe, but that’s half the beauty of it. It’s full of twists and turns, musically. Lyrically it’s developed into a song about missing a loved one away from home (hopefully after only a week on the road, it’s not a problem James are going to need to deal with).
Getting Away With It gets the audience more mobile as James move back to more familiar territory for the closing section of the show. Sometimes is thrown in next to the surprise of many. It just sends the moshpit wilder and further back than it had been previously. Tomorrow does the same. There’s a communication between band and audience that no other band I’ve ever seen has managed to create.
Sit Down merely confirms victory for James. Again, sung very straight, it reminds the whole world that behind the saturation of radio play, it being the only song infidels know, the numerous single versions, it’s a fucking great song. It’s a call to arms, but also a very personal intimate song in a way that very few songs can ever hope to achieve. The crowd don’t care that they’re not given the chance to sing it themselves. The band leave the stage, Tim telling the audience that they’re delighted to be back, they’re glad they’ve done it because it is the right thing to do.
Gold Mother opens the encore and sees Tim pull some carefully placed dancers onto stage to join what is already a chaotic mess. Tim prowls the stage, dancing with everyone he can find, Larry and Saul go walkabout, the strobes penetrate the darkness, the song goes down alley after alley, it’s stunning stuff.
Waltzing Along starts with the crowd singing the opening guitar part which makes Larry crease laughing. That and first encore closer Laid have the crowd back in mosh mode, Laid’s extended ending bringing the set to a close.
One quick side-stage conversation later and they come back for the slowed down then normal speed She’s A Star. As I’ve said before, it’s an odd set closer, given the pace at which it’s performed. The crowd naturally love it.
So another great show, on a par with the second night in Glasgow as the top show of the tour so far. The way however the band have grown in confidence from night to night and the anticipation in their hometown, suggests tonight’s gig might just be something extra special.