Top Of The World / Born Of Frustration / Oh My Heart / Boom Boom / Ring The Bells / Hey Ma / Bubbles / Come Home / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / I Wanna Go Home / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Waterfall / Whiteboy / She’s A Star / Sound / Tomorrow / Say Something / Upside / Sometimes
A seated venue is not necessarily the most appopriate venue for a James gig. Let’s face it, noone is going to be staying sat down too long and the chairs just get in the way (although, with the exception of two drunken fuckwits who were efficiently dealt with by security, people didn’t try and rush the front row).
Appropriately Top Of The World opened the set, Tim telling the audience to sit back and relax. However, most of the crowd remained standing. There’s an eerie hushedness as the song works through to its end with Tim and Saul almost eyeball to eyeball with duelling violin and vocals. Born Of Frustration pierces through the hush and Larry’s guitar cuts through the gap between stage and crowd bolstered by Andy’s revelatory trumpet calls.
Oh My Heart doesn’t let the pace drop and people remain standing for it. Tim asks the crowd at the end if they know who wrote the poem entitled Crazy Jane And The Bishop, and mocks them for not knowing given that we’re in Oxford (the correct answer is William Butler Yeats). Boom Boom has a similar effect on the crowd, but it’s still a little surreal with the chairs in the way. At the end Larry chides someone stood in front of him shouting out for songs that they’re not going to play and tells him to shut up.
Ring The Bells looks and sounds stunning, whilst Hey Ma again has the effect of the crowd clapping along and singing the chorus. Tim asks the audience if they know what the black swans reference is in the song, and laughs again when noone knows and points out noone is wearing a tie as he’s wearing his best clothes.
From a song about death to a song about life, Bubbles is as emotional and powerful as anything from the Hey Ma set, it builds to a peak as Tim’s words get faster and more evocative following the lead set by the band.
Come Home has the crowd delirious and fails to disappoint yet again. Tim makes use of the most of the stage, as does Andy who prowls the front of the stage, tambourine in hand, almost creating a comedy moment as he trips over the wires to one of the speakers at the front of the stage.
The venue is made for tracks like Of Monsters And Heroes And Men. It’s the best performance of it so far on the tour, the lights perfectly capturing the mood of the song and the set-up knocking much of the talking on the head. I Wanna Go Home has the band shooting off in different directions and gives Tim the opportunity to dance centre stage. At the end, the heckler Larry had chastised earlier is still shouting for Johnny Yen. Tim responds that the guy had been too busy shouting for it that he missed the new Johnny Yen and that if people kept shouting for songs, they’d take them off the list as they were awkward cantankerous Mancunians. Wonderful stuff.
Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) has the crowd back up and dancing, singing along. It builds more than it has done in previous live renditions, Larry less to the front with Saul taking the lead early on. Waterfall appears to have lost a verse somewhere, which makes no sense although I suspect it might be down to the curse of the “radio edit”. It feels a little odd, but that’s forgotten as the outro again sounds pretty much perfect.
Whiteboy is an absolute blast again as is She’s A Star. Highlight of the set is another impassioned version of Sound, full of another set of twists and turns, dips and dives, improvisations of music and lyrics. Wonderful stuff. Tomorrow keeps the pace through the end of the main set, despite the lack of a heaving mass of crowd to drive it on.
Say Something starts off the encore and Tim takes the opportunity to get out into the crowd, standing on chairs as he moves through them, not dropping a note, stopping to sing parts of the songs next to some lucky punters. The joy on people’s faces is a delight to behold.
Upside quietens people down but this allows the emotion and power of the song to shine through in the theatrical surroundings. Sometimes takes a while to get going, the crowd seemingly happy to sing along quietly, but with some encouragement, they get the message and it gets louder and louder, before the band come back in and finish the song off. Again, tonight, it’s on the brink of being forced rather than spontaneous, but at the end of it, you can’t argue with 2000 people on their feet singing back the refrain.
The seated venue meant this wasn’t going to match the spectacular of the previous night in Norwich, but it’s an excellent show, there’s still a strong communication between band and audience, the music still sounds as thrilling and on the edge as before and Tim and Andy have visually been stunning.