The first of two shows made up entirely of new songs to roadtest them before the recording sessions for Hey Ma, including some that didn’t make the record. The audience were requested to score and make comments on a pre-printed setlist.
Child To Burn / Good Mood Sunday / Out Of Our Heads / Hey Ma / Waterfall / Pure Beauty (Semaphore) / I Wanna Go Home / A/B (72) / Mother’s A Clown / Better In Black (Of Monsters And Heroes And Men) / Oh My Heart / Fear? / White Boy / Bubbles / Boom Boom
review by oneofthethree
How do you even start to write a review of a gig like this? I don’t think I can recall ever hearing of a band coming on and playing fifteen new songs one after the other, without seemingly pausing for breath. No hits, no hidden classics, hell they don’t even play Upside Downside, Traffic and Not So Strong, three new songs that thrilled us over the summer. Some of these songs probably won’t make it on the album. Some of them will only probably ever get heard over these two nights. Lyrics will probably change beyond recognition, arrangements will change. With all this going on, you just wonder if the excitement, the newness and the sheer bloody-mindedness of it will drown the event. It is hard work, but it’s the sort of hard work you enjoy. There’s a sense of wonder, a sense of uniqueness, a sense of a future vision of the band. Forget the mega-shows of the big theatres and the arena in April, the hit-laden festival successes of the summer, this is what this reunion is all about.
In order to set the scene, the rather wonderful idea of handing out setlists to everyone was conceived. It is a sign of intent and also a sign that those expecting a concession on hits are wasting their time. It builds the anticipation.
I’m not going trying to do a deep analysis of each of the new songs here – maybe tomorrow night.. I don’t honestly think I could off one listen. The set is a mix of gorgeous slow yearning songs, some poppy upbeat numbers, there’s a number of songs that start off slow and then explode gloriously. Saul plays a lot of violin which adds so much more to the mix than when he plays guitar (not a criticism of his ability on it). Andy’s trumpet is absolutely everywhere and Tim quite often uses that as a cue and also as a board to bounce his vocals off. Larry’s slide guitar permeates the slower songs in a way that made Laid such compelling listening. Mark’s keyboards and Dave’s drums, as ever, hold the whole thing together perfectly. As in all great James songs, the keys are understated. Jim’s bass is the spine for so many of the songs, but, with Larry back, there’s an interplay and a communication there that had gone when Larry departed. Vocally, there’s some interesting vocal styles, particularly on the slower songs. They work well although the muddy sound on the faster songs sometimes distorts them.
Favourite songs at this stage? Child To Burn, A/B, Better In Black and Bubbles. But I’m sure that will be different tomorrow night.