Dream Thrum / Five-O / Oh My Heart / Seven / Waterfall / Whiteboy / Ring The Bells / Bubbles / Don’t Wait That Long / I Wanna Go Home / Out To Get You / Upside / Hey Ma / Sound / Sometimes / Laid / Say Something / Born Of Frustration / Sit Down
review by brd
After a bone jarring (due to road construction) 9 hour car trip from Toronto, we make into the Stone Pony just in time for our first of five James shows over eight nights, The room is a wide and narrow rectangle, perhaps 10 metres deep, with the standard flat black rock pub walls, but with a large outdoors bar at the back. A strange layout. The audience is a real demographic cross section, ranging from early twenties to sixties. There are a handful of James stalwarts around us who have gone to some of the US shows earlier this week and enthuse about them; and we are joined by a cousin of Tim’s, originally from Toronto, who has also gone to the NYC and Philadelphia shows. Planted at the front of stage left, we have an excellent view of both the stage and the “stage door” – an exit leading outside to the tour bus.
The show starts a lot earlier than we expected – shortly after 9pm – and James are on their game tonight. Starting off with two songs off of Laid, Dream Thrum and Five-O, they quietly engage the audience right away. Surprisingly, the next song, Oh My Heart off the new cd gets immediate recognition, as do all the other songs that night off of Hey Ma, even though it just got released in the US earlier this week. I suppose that’s the power of the internet – spreading the music long before its available commercially. Seven is up next and comes across well. And that defines the set list for this tour – lots of Hey Ma and Laid songs plus a good taster of even older songs, with Millionaires and PTMY the largely ignored poor orphans – a shame that. The crowd are really into it tonight. But there are a few songs where, for one reason or another the air leaks out of the tires. Larry’s guitar is just amazing through the emotionally intense Don’t Wait That Long, but the audience quite obviously don’t know it and aren’t sure how to react. And the politically charged Hey Ma noticeably quiets down the crowd; we must be in a red state.
Saul is really enjoying himself tonight, quite a contrast to the spring UK shows where he often appeared to have a black cloud hanging over him. And Saul just gets better and better through the night, whether he’s pounding the abbreviated drum kit in Waterfall (I forgot how much this adds to the song), twelve-stringing Ring the Bells, or getting the violin to cry in Out To Get You. I have to admit I’ve underestimated how much Saul really contributes to the overall James sound; just amazing.
Speaking of which, the sound system is just crap, with Tim’s voice, despite being in fine form, often crackling in the PA, which even makes it difficult to sort out what he is saying between songs. Despite this, Tim has the audience eating out of his hand; hitting the zenith when he comes down off the stage to sing into people’s faces during Say Something. This segment of the night is always interesting; a quasi religious experience with the laying of hands on the idol and shoving song requests in the face. Then all of a sudden James are surrounded by whooping Indians as the crowd lead them through Born of Frustration, clearly a high point for everyone. Then the ever dependable Mark’s opening piano chords of that old English folksong, Sit Down, quietly meander through the venue, taking a few phrases before the audience realize what it is; they go absolutely mental. And then its over. What? Already? There’s got to be more! Christ, its another 9 hour drive home. But it was worth it.