Born Of Frustration / Tomorrow / Sit Down / She’s A Star / Out To Get You / Johnny Yen / Upside Downside / Sometimes / Gold Mother / Sound / Laid / Ring The Bells / Traffic / Not So Strong / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
review by oneofthethree
So another secret warm-up gig it is. Oran Mor is in the crypt of a converted church in one of the more salubrious suburbs of Glasgow. It’s an interesting venue. Due to its structure it has a very low roof which doesn’t help the sound and pillars in some odd places that obscure the view from many parts of the room.
Anyway, James come around 8.45 and launch into the opening bars of Born Of Frustration. It’s clear from the start that the crowd are up for it, as they always are in Glasgow, although here a bit more controlled than at the Academy earlier in the year. What’s clear from the start is that Tim is in fine form vocally, the best he’s been to date and that there are going to be sound problems. At various points in the evening Larry is almost inaudible and from the end of Frustration right through to Gold Mother, you can’t hear Andy’s trumpet at all. That said, James are no strangers to issues with sound and tonight, as they usually always do, they conquer it and more.
Tomorrow is fast, frenetic and rather wonderful. Sit Down is next and met with either rapturous cheers or groans from those who think a warm-up gig is no place for it. For me, it’s been reinvigorated this tour by the way it’s been played – with the keyboard intro but then dead straight down the middle.
She’s A Star is disappointing as Larry’s guitar appears to be completely absent from the first half of the song. Those that have heard it on the tour to date know this is one of the best moments of the set. He’s a little obscured by a pillar so I can’t see whether it’s a new arrangement or whether there’s a sound problem. But it takes the edge off the song.
Out To Get You is a known crowd favourite in these parts. It brought the house down at the Academy and it gets a similar reception tonight. Similarly Johnny Yen is superb, drawn out, improvised middle section, ever changing. It’s a song over 20 years old and still evokes more passion and excitement than any of the bands that are going to grace the stage with them tomorrow.
Upside Downside continues to grow. Andy’s presence, when you can hear it, adds some beautiful shadow and shade to the song. The lyrics are again pretty much unchanged and it’s maybe a mystery now why Tim needs the lyric sheets for this one.
As this set is primarily a warm up for tomorrow and helping them with timing and the pacing of the set due to a typical Jamesian lack of rehearsals, it’s a bit more hit heavy than many would have liked, myself included. But it works fantastically well as a show, as would be evidenced tomorrow. Sometimes is as agitated, pulsating and exhilirating as ever, building and building to its climax of layered vocals. The band are clearly enjoying this and the crowd are lapping it up.
Gold Mother and Sound are exercises in the band demonstrating their craft, and so much of what was lost in James when Larry left. Some of us older types made constant references in the post Best Of era to the sheer dynamics of the Larry era live show and what had been lost (with no disrespect intended to Mike and Adrian). James were so unpredictable, all over the place yet so vibrant so spontaneous live in that period that we were seen as mad, but I think the evidence of the past four months have convinced everyone that the James line up we’re seeing now is pushing the envelope in a way that most bands wouldn’t even dare think about, yet alone pulling off. There’s a part in Gold Mother where it seems as if the song is about to come to a messy halt and it just soars out of nowhere.
Laid is a bit throwaway if we’re being honest, but the crowd love it to bits. Tim announces that Ring The Bells will be the last song of the set “tomorrow night”. I think I’ve said enough for you to get my opinion on this one, it feels like the song is never going to end and you never want it to as Tim dances himself into a frenzy, Andy hollers into his mic in between his trumpet burst and the guitars build and build and build. Stunning stuff.
The encore starts with the second ever performances of Traffic and Not So Strong, Tim apologising in advance if they mess them up. Traffic is meandering and beautiful with a very simple chorus that sounds like “dream a lie”, before speeding into a shotgun-style barrage of lyrics from Tim and then an extended improvised outro.
Not So Strong is the real highlight though, starting with a series of boxing analogies over a brooding and menacing backing, before opening out into a vast wide musical melange of guitar, keyboard and trumpet that works perfectly and lyrics that are pretty much fine as they are despite being work in progress. Tim says at the end “that was fucking good, wasn’t it?” Too right. Waiting for 2008 for this album is going to be a long long wait.
Getting Away With It starts and then stops, as the sound problems mean Dave can’t be heard. The song has become somewhat of an anthem for the band and it’s a real shame Mercury never took the time to promote it properly as it could have relaunched James in 2001. Tonight, it’s everything it’s always been. Tim’s dancing is frenetic and Larry and Andy add those little flourishes that make it special.
And then that’s it. A great night. James yet again overcoming technical gremlins and likely under-rehearsal to deliver a sharp and breathtaking set to a small crowd. A little hit heavy maybe, but this was more a genuine warm-up than the secret gigs of Hoxton and Nambucca, and when the band are this good, it’s a bit churlish to complain.
review by Robin
Pouring rain, overpriced rum and fat bastards elbowing me through the first four songs could not overshadow the greatness of the gig.