Born Of Frustration / Tomorrow / Sit Down / Chain Mail / Play Dead / Out To Get You / Bubbles / Upside Downside / Say Something / Laid / Gold Mother / Ring The Bells / Sometimes / She’s A Star / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Come Home
review by oneofthethree
And so onto Belladrum It’s raining. It holds off enough not to be torrential, but those of us down the front had to contend with mud and rain throughout most of the set. From the highs of last night, it was always going to be a bit of a comedown, but following the rather interesting support of a reggae band and then a Johnny Cash tribute band whilst upcoming indie stars Kate Nash, Mumm Ra, Scouting For Girls and Pigeon Detectives and legend Lloyd Cole played sets in tents around the area, James hit the stage just after 9.30.
From the opening bars of Frustration, it was clear that James were going to have the audience eating out of the palms of their hands. Without any insult implied to Michael or Adrian as they brought different things to the James table, the first thirty seconds are pure Larry, the intro building into Tim crashing in with his whooping. The sound is fantastic despite the rain and the band have clearly started off where they left off the previous night. As with last night, Tomorrow and Sit Down follow and are rapturously received and at this point the crowd are eating out of the band’s collective palm. Chain Mail, although over 20 years old, feels perfect for this setting, it broods and grows before the explosion of the chorus.
Similarly, Play Dead doesn’t feel like a previously neglected album track, it holds its right to be in the set as much as anything else, the crowd stand in awe as Larry, Saul and Tim’s accapella ending takes the song to its end. Out To Get You induces much arm-waving and quite oddly some crowd-surfing as people are hauled out from the middle. It stays the right side of cliched though, there are no lighters waved in the air and the improvisation of the ending is there too.
Tim then introduces Bubbles, the first of the two new songs, as a tribute to Tony Wilson. There’s some applause from parts of the crowd who know his legacy, but I suspect it might have been lost on many. The song itself makes much more sense on second listen. It appears to be based on the way human beings are put together, how we become what we are and how our characters are formed. As with many of the new songs, it starts as a slow burner and then flies off in different directions which make it typical James, whilst still maintaining their uniqueness. You’ve read my treatise on Upside Downside already. I won’t go into it again, but it was as good as it has been to date. The crowd reaction would support this.
Tim appears to consider coming down to the crowd for Say Something, but takes a look at the mud and the rain and thinks better of it. A wise move probably. Laid followed and was wild. Gold Mother starts with the now traditional inviting of audience members up onto the stage. This does work much better when it is a more random choice of audience members pulled out of the crowd rather than some of the more staged attempts at it (was the girl on stage both nights at Brixton just coincidentally at T In The Park).
Ring The Bells and Sometimes bring the set proper to a frenetic finale, the extended ending of Ring The Bells making the moshpit wilder and larger whilst Sometimes is somewhat appropriate given that the rain has started again by this point. There wasn’t really a lot of point in them leaving the stage before the encore.
The encore opens with She’s A Star and the reworked version is perfect for this, Andy’s input the final missing link from the stripped down version of the April tour. As ever, Getting Away With It gets a fantastic response from the crowd, before a set closing Come Home which is accompanied by a firework display behind the main stage. While you can’t see most of this from our vantage point, I can only imagine it was stunning from up on the banks and hills. And then that was it and we had to face the trawl back through the mud of the car park to the hotel.
So, overall not an anti-climax at all. It’s difficult to reach the intimacy and highs of a small room in a festival setting, even if you are the main attraction, but James don’t disappoint. They gave a taste of the future, but more importantly for next year, they laid down the marker that they’re back, they’re hungrier and they still wipe the floor with mere mortals.