Come Home / Waltzing Along / Oh My Heart / Boom Boom / Ring The Bells / Waterfall / Bubbles / Born Of Frustration / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / I Wanna Go Home / Out To Get You / Upside / Whiteboy / She’s A Star / Sound / Tomorrow / Top Of The World / Hey Ma / Sometimes / Laid
The Edinburgh Corn Exchange is a dreadful venue. It’s my second visit, the first being last year’s triumphant festival gig, and the magnificence of that show was put into perspective by tonight’s events. The band didn’t play badly, quite the contrary, it was as polished and as fierce a performance as on the tour, but the shape of the venue with it’s lower ceilings at either side and a sound set up that would disgrace small “toilet” venues took a lot of the edges off the overall impact. The hits managed to survive this through sheer force of recognition from the crowd and the closing duo of Sometimes and Laid were up there with any moment on the tour so far as the whole crowd moved in one mass. However, the sound in the venue and the unwillingness or inability of large sections of the crowd around the fringes to shut up and listen to the new songs was grating. Why pay £35 to go and watch a gig and then just talk all the way through half of the set?
Come Home is opened by a bagpipe player on the balcony as the band come on stage. It’s a more direct opening than recent shows and the crowd respond in kind. The bagpipes I thought were unnecessary and possibly a little bit patronising, but the response probably tells me I’m in a minority on that one. Waltzing Along segues in wonderfully and Tim is matched word for word by the crowd.
Oh My Heart and Boom Boom follow, and whilst sounding huge, the subtleties of Andy singing into the trumpet and Saul’s strings seem to be lost in the sound. Ring The Bells suffers no such problems though, again being sang back by most of the room as it builds and builds to its spectacular climax.
Waterfall and, in particular, Bubbles are not helped by the awful sound that muddy together some of the stunning instrumentation that these songs have characterised over the rest of the tour. They’re not helped by the chattering masses. A very good friend of mine observed that Scottish audiences in general (so please don’t take this to mean YOU personally reader) have always tended to be an album behind on James tours and his point would seem to be proved out tonight.
Born Of Frustration changes the mood back though, the crowd starting to sing before Tim comes in. It doesn’t last long though as the chatterers are back for Of Monsters And Heroes And Men which from half way back in the venue gets ruined by it. I Wanna Go Home is strong enough to overcome it, Tim’s dancing stopping people in mid-sentence. Out To Get You similarly survives. Upside still sounds as vital as ever despite some of the indifference around me and the edge being taken off such delicate moments as Mark and Saul’s opening keys and guitar.
Whiteboy is a riot, you can’t fail to love the swinging lights, the “ah ah ah ah ah ah ah” and Tim smacking ten bells out of the cowbell. The closing trio of She’s A Star, Sound and Tomorrow are absolutely massive, there’s very little chatter going on and the deficiencies in the sound are obliterated by 2000 Scots. Sound takes a whole set of new twists, Tomorrow is sung back so loud it almost drowns out Tim.
The encore starts with a surprise as Tim appears at the back of the arena on the balcony next to a very static and expressionless Billy Sloan (Clyde 1 DJ). The cameraphones come out and rather than listening people around me talking about the quality of the pictures they’ve got. They ignore Tim’s pointing towards the stage when Saul plays his violin solo which is a real shame. Hey Ma starts with bagpipes and is accompanied by a drummer on stage throighout.
Then it’s down to Sometimes. No need to encourage the crowd to sing along, it’s the most spontaneous joining in with the refrain of the tour so far, and the loudest. Tim and Larry dance on stage as the crowd take over the song completely. The band respond by kicking into Laid and win over all the doubters and chatterers and send them home happy.
For me, although it was still a good gig, this was the least enjoyable of the tour so far. The sound did the band no favours and they battled valiantly against it and the constant chattering during the less recognisble numbers. The quality of the performance however shone throughout and the smiles on people’s faces as the lights went back up showed that James have no peers in the live arena even with a set full of new songs that the majority of the audience seemingly didn’t recognise.