Lose Control (acoustic) / Waltzing Along / Oh My Heart / Ring The Bells / Hey Ma / Someone’s Got It In For Me / I Know What I’m Here For / Gold Mother / Porcupine / I Wanna Go Home / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / Upside / Stutter / Born of Frustration / Sit Down / Sound / Out To Get You / Sometimes / Laid
So onto the relatively new Carling Academy, once the Town and Country Club, and as with most fizzy pop venues, somehow they’ve managed to drain some of the soul out of the place. It’s absolutely heaving downstairs, hardly room to move. We miss the support band as it takes over an hour to find a parking space in what has to be the most stupidly laid out city centre in the UK.
The band come on just after 9, following another set of audience questions projected onto the big screen. As in Brighton, Tim and Larry start the gig by wandering through the crowd playing a gorgeous acoustic version of Lose Control. It must have taken quite an effort to get through the middle of the crowd but they make it to the front for the end of the song. Waltzing Along makes its first appearance of the tour and it’s clear tonight’s crowd are in good voice and up for singing along.
The Hey Ma tracks get an excellent reception tonight as well. Oh My Heart sees arms raised in the moshpit, the front row joining in and Tim holding the end note well into the crowd’s applause at the end. The lighting effects, including some judicious use of dry ice, are absolutely stunning.
After telling the Leeds crowd he’s in his hometown (which generates a torrent of abuse from the two Bradford City fans stood near me), we’re treated to chants of “Leeds Leeds Leeds” and “Manchester. Wank wank wank” Good work at a gig by a Manchester band, Mensa must be cancelling their plans to recruit at Elland Road now. Ring The Bells ratches up the pace a bit and the first crowdsurfers are pulled out. The chorus of Hey Ma is met by raised hands and fierce shouting back of the chorus by the crowd.
Someone’s Got It In For Me takes it back down and it’s still a surprise to hear this, more than any of the others, in the set tonight. But even the most ardent Millionaires detractors can be seen singing along. As a slight criticism, it doesn’t still feel as powerful without Kulas on backing vocals, but it shows a different side to James than the singles and upbeat tracks around it.
I Know What I’m Here For sounds fresh and invigorated back in the set, fulfilling the promise it had before the recorded version didn’t do it justice. Gold Mother makes a welcome return, sans stage invasion, and again is accompanied by stunning lighting. As well as the quality of the performance, the visuals so far have been stunning, and this is even before the larger backdrops of the arenas have come into play.
Porcupine is coming together more and more with every play. It’s a slow burner, in the same vein as Bubbles, with a gorgeous yearning chorus. I Wanna Go Home and Of Monsters And Heroes And Men add to the demonstration that James best moments are not always in the power and noise of the more familiar singles. Upside, started off by Saul’s simple but heart-wrenching guitar, is as beautiful as ever, Tim holding the final chorus but not risking trying to shut this crowd up.
Stutter, with a strange but somehow effective guitar part from Larry, is dedicated to the really old James fans and is a welcome addition to the set. It’d be great to hear it at the end of the set, but that’s not very likely to happen as Sound has well and truly nailed that position.
The main set finishes with a trio of hit singles. Born Of Frustration has the audience doing their best indian impersonations and Andy’s trumpet call pierces the cries from the crowd. The end section flies off into the stratosphere, stunning musicianship as Tim prowls the stage. Sit Down starts fast, then slows down, then picks up again and the venue is turned into a seething mass of bodies, hollering each and every word back. Sound, as ever, takes on new twists and turns. At one point Saul and Jim are almost eyeball to eyeball, Andy is manic, hammering away at the trumpet. Tim watches on, probably in awe as the rest of us at what’s going on around him. It’s wonderful, it comes back in several times when it seems like it’s going to stop.
The encore, after what seems like an eternity, starts with Out To Get You. It’s noticeable now how Larry is much more mobile around the stage, getting involved more in the interaction on stage than on previous tours. The crowd sing back the whole thing in unison. It’s powerful stuff.
Sometimes sees the crowd back in with the singing back of the chorus at the band. It’s loud, it’s terribly out of tune, but that’s not the point. Half the balcony stands up, those that remain seated are still singing along. It then segues into Laid, and it all goes mental and then they’re gone, stopping to take the applause from the crowd, even perfecting the team bow at the end.
Not my favourite gig so far, I’m afraid. The sound and the lighting was excellent as was the performance. I don’t think the hassles getting to the venue and the fact it was virtually impossible to move, let alone dance in the way Brighton offered wide open spaces, in parts of the venue helped that. But from friends who were there earlier and had secured better vantage points, the response was overwhelming.