Warm-up gig for the festival season and Andy’s first back with the band since 1992.
Say Something / Seven / Play Dead / Traffic / Chameleon / Born Of Frustration / Chain Mail / Out To Get You / Not So Strong / Upside / Sometimes / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Ring The Bells / Sound / She’s A Star / Gold Mother / Laid
review by oneofthethree
So back to Hoxton, scene of the first comeback show only three seemingly long months ago. After making us wait an age to come on, they finally made their way through the crowd and launched into Say Something, and then promptly stopped. An inauspicious start and the version was a little ramshackle to start with but half way through kicked in. Before the next song, Tim asked if anyone could play brass and an extravagantly haired Andy Diagram climbed up on stage to start off Seven. Wandering around the rather cramped stage, it was both weird but welcoming to see Andy back. For me, James peak live was this line up around 1992 and whilst under-rehearsed and unfamiliar tonight, you could see the massive possibilities for the live sound were Andy’s comeback to be more permanent than the summer festivals.
Play Dead was wonderfully chaotic, all over the place, but yet held together, verging on freeform at points. The first new song Traffic was debuted, the sound was still patchy at this stage, but the seeds of a gorgeous yearning track are there, particularly the extended instrumental end section. Chameleon rocked like hell before Larry started the elongated building start to Born of Frustration, making a very welcome and a very stunning return to the set. Andy started to prowl the stage and the song descended into a beautiful mess. Chain Mail has taken on a new menacing edge in the way Tim forcefully pronounces the words. Out To Get You gets one of the warmest receptions of the evening, yet feels a little cramped in the more intimate surrounds of the venue than it did in the bigger halls of April.
The second brand new track, Not So Strong, starts with a pulsating intro with Tim half-speaking half-singing and then opens out into a gloriously loose and instantly endearing track. All is looking well. Upside is simply gorgeous. Andy’s dashes of trumpet just add the cherry on the very tasty cake.
The set then races to a close with a stunning medley of hits. Sometimes is as driven, as passionate and as exciting as ever. Getting Away With It builds and builds to a crescendo. Ring The Bells just keeps going and going and you never want it to end as the music gets more frenetic, more desperate. Sound makes a reappearance and doesn’t disappoint, its loose structures allowing the band to take the song wherever they choose in a way only James seem to be able.
They discard the encore ritual and launch into possibly the most beautiful rendition of any James song I think I’ve ever heard. Larry’s guitar on She’s A Star makes the hairs on my neck stand up and tears well up. Embellished with a wandering trumpet the song is an absolute showstopper. Gold Mother follows Sound down the path of unrehearsed, verging on the dividing line between genius and shambolic (and falling as ever on the right side of the line). After all this fun, Laid seems a bit of a throwaway ending, but the crowd love it and everyone goes home happy, if a little late.
James 2007 have pretty much lived up to their publicity. There might be some financial reasons for the reformation, but this is a band hellbent on playing what they want to play, and playing it their way. They are the awkward bastards that took the scenic route when the highway was set out in front of them. This reunion could have been so staid, a get the hits out for the lads style that so many of their contemporaries have gone for. But it’s not. It’s true to the spirit and legacy of James greatest moments and keeps adding to it. Roll on the album.
review by Robin
“It was fucking amazing”