SetlistLose Control / Waltzing Along / Oh My Heart / Ring The Bells / Whiteboy / I Know What I'm Here For / Gold Mother / Stutter / Porcupine / I Wanna Go Home / Out To Get You / Lullaby / Upside / Hey Ma / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Born Of Frustration / Sit Down / Sound / Say Something / Sometimes / Laid
More Information & Reviews
After the first few shows of the tour, this is the first arena gig proper. The SECC isn’t sold out as there are curtains across the side seats, but standing is full to capacity and the seats at the back are pretty well populated. With the bigger shows, there are also screens at the side of the stage to aid those at the back to see better. There’s an expectant atmosphere in the air as the music stops and the screen starts with the daily question about what would make the world a better place. Not having to endure Athlete for half an hour is probably a good place to start. They’re not bad musicians, their songs are not bad per se, there’s just a lack of excitement to them and it drifts across the hall without grabbing anyone. When you think there are far more exciting bands doing arena support slots around this time, it’s a shame, but then let’s face it, we’re not here to watch the support band, are we?
About 9.10, the lights go down and we get another session of the Q and A about what would make the world a better place. Lots of comments about love, peace and getting rid of religion, which gets the biggest cheer of the lot.
Tim and Larry appear at the back of the venue in the seats and make their way down, pausing at the bottom for the chorus before weaving through the mass of bodies in the standing area. It’s a brave move to walk through a crowd so large and so up for the gig, but there’s no problems as they are still pretty much note perfect. They don’t quite make it all the way before the song ends, so we get an extended intro into Waltzing Along, accompanied by a few thousand Glaswegian voices. A few things are clear. The sound is superb and the lighting, brilliant as it was in Leeds, is just at a different level tonight with the bigger arena to work with. Wherever they found this guy, they should keep hold of him.
Oh My Heart starts against a gorgeous yellow backdrop and is as fierce and passionate as it’s ever been. Ring The Bells sees Andy move to the front of the stage on a specially constructed lip wearing a fetching hat. The front of the crowd becomes a sea of hands raised and sweaty moshing bodies. At the end Tim takes to the lip and dances which has the crowd in raptues. He commented in Camden that he was dancing because he was jetlagged and that he isn’t a monkey who performs for the sake of it. He seems recovered now.
Whiteboy makes it into the set for the first time. Despite the band having their toys to play with, it’s still an absolute blast, with Tim giving his admonishing finger wagging. I Know What I’m Here For follows and is accompanied by the film of fans dancing in the foyer before the show. It runs into Gold Mother, which seems a little subdued without the stage invasions of the previous tours and festival sets. Not that anyone really cares by this point. The SECC is derided by many Glaswegians as not being a great music venue. I have to say my limited view on venues based on James tours (Barras 98, SECC 98 and 99 and the Academy 07) is that it’s the one that allows James to take their show to higher levels, the sound is excellent for what is effectively a big shed and there’s room to dance without taking out the people around you.
Stutter is a case in point. It might be 25 years old, never have been committed to a studio album, but it’s mind-blowing. Probably only Honest Joe and Sound in the rest of James’ canon can demonstrate the sheer power of James at high volumes. It twists and turns. Those fans disinterested at the start of the song are mesmerised by the end, you just can’t take your eyes off the stage.
In a typically bold move, it’s time for a new song. Porcupine already feels like a vital part of James despite only having been played four times. It has that magic of being a beautiful yearning song with lyrics that are relatively easy to pick up on and which feel like they speak to you. “At the end of the road, I surrender control, diving into your arms, I depend on your help”. At the end, Saul reappears on stage at the back on a raised platform playing violin (hurrah), having gone off stage for a costume change. In his white suit with the lights focused on him, he almost looks like an angel.
I Wanna Go Home follows and the sound and lights make it even more immense and powerful. There’s a subtle but powerful melody in the verse, not getting too technical hopefully, which drives the song along. The end sees the stage explode in light as Tim and Andy prowl the stage and then it stops as Tim finishes the song off.
Keeping the pace down mid-set works beautifully as it allows the crowd to recover and demonstrate the mastery James have at lower volumes and with more intimate material to work with. The crowd respond well to it around me too. Out To Get You is familiar and we’ve heard it hundreds of times before live, but it never fails to get the hairs on the back of the neck standing up, Larry’s guitar pierces through the hot and heavy atmosphere like a knife. The crowd becomes a sea of hands. The song builds to a climax with Jim, Saul and Larry in a huddle. Tim’s face is shown on the screen as much in awe as the rest of us with what is going on. Lullaby is next and is accompanied by a drifting slideshow of what looks like toys and dolls in the background.
Upside is as lilting and gorgeous as ever from Saul’s opening guitar through to Andy’s trumpet call at the end with him on the raised platform bathed in red light. Tim changes the lyrics at the end of the first verse to “left your heart within my care”.
Hey Ma feels more at home towards the end of the set at the start of the build-up to the massive climax that follows. The crowd holler back the chorus, which still feels a bit odd given the subject matter, but it feels like a genuine communion of people’s feelings to what has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Getting Away With It raises huge cheers from the crowd and starts the run-in towards the end of the set, which is as powerful and stunning a close of a set as I think I’ve ever seen James do. Born Of Frustration was so good it almost defies description. The crowd do their best indian impersonations much to Tim’s amusement. He then moves stage right with the spotlight following him, which also lights up a bemused security guard. Tim recognises the poor guy’s embarrassment and smiles at him before moving away. By the end, through two extended instrumental sections, Tim is stood on the lip of the stage with Andy knelt beside him belting out the trumpet crescendo of the song. Stunning,
Sit Down starts with a beautiful haunting extended piano intro from Mark that sends shivers down the spine. The whole place goes mental as they realise what is coming. Even tonight’s arms folded not moving man joins in. It’s impossible not to be moved by this song when you have thousands of people singing it back. Apart from the intro, it’s still performed relatively straight which, in my view, just adds more to it.
The only way to follow it is Sound. Ten minutes of wonderful structured and then semi-improvised noise, building, peaking, dropping, building again, starting again when it appears to be stopping. The band move around the stage, Andy prowling and cajoling the rest of the band. Tim looks on with the same wonder as the rest of us. There’s a point where Tim sings “I call upon my father’s spirit” and it feels like he has actually connected as there’s a shiver goes down my spine that I don’t think I’ve ever felt before. Words cannot really do this justice. The band huddle together stage front at the end to take the applause and Saul, fired up, shouts encouragement at the audience.
Coming back, Tim jumps down into the crowd for Say Something. It’s for me the one slight disappointment of the evening. Visually, it looks great on the screens, but the song, as with Waltzing Along in my view, don’t always scrub up well against the rest of the set which allows the more experimental, powerful or quieter sides of the live James experience to come out. I don’t think anyone in the venue actually agrees with me though, so I’ll stop going on about it (maybe).
Sometimes doesn’t require any encouragement from the crowd to start singing back the refrain. When it’s natural like this, it is magical. The singing seems to be cut short a little as the opening bars to Laid kick in. Noone minds. The whole place erupts and goes mental. As it stops, the band again take their bow. The crowd voice their disappointment that there’s no more.
So, in summary, a stunning show, great sound, mesmerising lighting and a crowd up for it but also willing to listen to the slower section in the middle of the set, which works excellently. The set now seems to enable the band to slot songs in and out depending on their mood during the soundcheck around a base set of songs. The ending of the show makes sure everyone goes away beaming, but there’s something for everyone in the set, which is exactly how it should be. Wonderful stuff.