Out To Get You / 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 / Johnny Yen / Waterfall / Whiteboy / She’s A Star / Sound / Tomorrow / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) Upside / Sometimes
Following another day off, it’s back on the road to Bristol and the Colston Hall, an interestingly laid out venue with both seats and standing in the stalls area and the main stack of ceiling speakers seemingly not used for the gig.
The set starts off with Out To Get You, which is welcomed instantly by the crowd and characterised by six (Andy doesn’t join this song) musicians lost in their own things, coming together at the end of the song, particularly Tim and Saul cementing what looks like a very intense bonding. Born Of Frustration has the moshpit heaving as the trumpet call from Andy kicks in and the crowd holler back Tim’s vocals.
The new songs, once again, don’t feel out of place. Oh My Heart, whilst a relatively simple song, sounds huge as does Boom Boom, although there’s a minor mishap where Mark’s programmed part doesn’t kick in so Saul gets them out of a tricky spot with a stunning piece of violin work before the extended outro kicks back in and the song soars to its conclusion. Ring The Bells sounds massive, it’s still a relatively straight rendition, but it’s such a great song that it doesn’t really need a lot doing with it.
The “happy protest song” Hey Ma follows and as before has the crowd clapping and singing along with the chorus. Saul points out that Bob Marley probably invented the genre. Bubbles is simply beautiful, there’s a poignancy to the song that can’t be ignored as it builds, a raw emotion that is so critical, for me, in James appeal. Come Home, in contrast, is raw in a completely different way, laying scars out for public consumption. Musically, it sprawls and the crowd go absolutely wild for it. It’s not been significantly reworked but it sounds as fresh and vital as at any point since 1990.
There’s a comedy moment at the start of Monsters as the e-drum program doesn’t kick in properly so Dave, Saul and a roadie frantically try and fix it whilst Tim starts singing unaware of why the audience are cheering every time Dave hits the drums. Once the bass has been sorted out, it’s one of the best renditions of Monsters so far and the crowd generally behave themselves and listen. I Wanna Go Home merely cements this as one of the best shows of the tour so far, this was for me the best they’ve played this. As they become more comfortable with improvising the end section, it becomes more powerful with each night of the tour.
Johnny Yen is thrown into the main set rather than being saved for the encore. Again, Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty are namechecked, before the improvised vocals move on to more general subject matter around tortured artists. The crowd love it.
Waterfall still sounds odd with the lost verse, but it’s probably a case of familiarity with it being in there. Whiteboy is as usual a riot and She’s A Star brings with it the return of the heaving mass in the centre of the crowd.
Sound, yet again, takes things to a new level. There are so many different permutations with this song and the band take it down a new route each night. The lighting follows the band making it not just sound, but look, spectacular. Tomorrow is a very fitting set closer, fast, furious, impassioned and delirious.
The encore starts with a strangely quiet version of Getting Away With It, before a gorgeous rendition of Upside. Spoiled only by the inability of the crowd to keep quiet for five seconds before the final chorus kicks in. Some Welsh girl seems to think it’s her cue to scream things several times as the rest of the audience hush and then some idiot thinks whistling is a good idea. Tim, quite rightly, tells them to shut the fuck up and waits for the silence before coming back in.
Sometimes suffers at the start by Larry’s guitar not being tuned in, Tim jokes it’s a new avant-garde song, but once it gets started, the crowd are already singing back every word, so there’s very little encouragement needed for them to sing along at the end. Tonight, Tim joins back in singing once the band start playing again and it gets faster and faster before coming to a close.
All in all, an excellent gig, probably one of the top three of the tour so far, not reaching the heights of Norwich, but you can’t have everything. I Wanna Go Home was the highlight, but Sound pushed it very close. And the venue was nowhere near as bad as had been touted around beforehand.