Lose Control / Oh My Heart / Ring The Bells / Whiteboy / English Beefcake / Bubbles / Senorita / Born Of Frustration / Gold Mother / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / I Wanna Go Home / Out To Get You / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Sometimes / Laid / Sit Down / Sound / Say Something
The Earth Theatre is, despite the location on the outskirts of the city with no signposts for the English traveller, pretty much a perfect place for a James gig. It holds around 5,000 in an amphitheatre carved out of the hillside. Stage right is a large vertical cliff, on the other sides large sloping banks with seats, which explained the bizarre concept of people selling sheets of polystyrene outside the venue with a standing area in the middle.
The support band were pretty dreadful. They were a local band and their own songs didn’t sound too bad but they insisted on absolutely murdering Fleetwood Mac’s Big Love and Bjork’s Violently Happy.
The band, minus Tim and Andy, come onto stage and there’s silence until Andy blasts out the intro to Lose Control on his trumpet. The crowd turned round to see them on the steps of the banked seating, although initially there’s some confusion as they can’t work out the route to take down to the stage. It works itself out though and the song is performed by just Tim, Larry and Andy which is an interesting and different take on prior versions. The crowd sing along to every word.
Oh My Heart is next and it’s good to see the crowd are generally familiar with Hey Ma. Greece has taken James to their heart quite late – Pleased To Meet You, Getting Away With It (Live) and Hey Ma were all big hits here, probably chart-wise far more so than in the UK.
Ring The Bells has the crowd jumping up and down and generally going wild. Tim comes to the front of the stage and starts dancing, whilst Andy’s trumpet takes the song off in a different direction. Whiteboy is played pretty straight but it is a great pop song nevertheless.
Tim introduces English Beefcake as a song that they’d learnt especially for Greece as they were the only ones that seemed to understand it. It’s a wonderful version too, improvised lyrics in parts and some superb guitar from Larry. One of the highlights of the set. And it links into a stunning version of Bubbles. The poignancy of the song seems to grow in the beautiful setting.
Senorita gets a massive reception. It hardly ever got played in the UK, in 2001 or later, but the fans here love it. It’s a great song and should have been a single, had Mercury bothered to promote the album at all. Born Of Frustration is huge too. The sound of the trumpet piercing through the warm night air. Tim comes down onto the barrier in a number of places to make a connection with the crowd.
For Gold Mother, he invites four fans up on to the stage on the condition they are good dancers. They are a bit more subdued than the UK stage dancers which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The song elongates itself into what is almost a free jam with Tim hollering into the megaphone.
Of Monsters and Heroes and Men is a surprise inclusion for an outdoor show, particularly as there is no Upside tonight, but works well without the use of the mirrorball which added so much to the visuals on the 2008 UK tours. The song builds to its climax and the crowd go mad. I Wanna Go Home is simply stunning. It’s the prime example of how the magic of a James live show is something that is very difficult to capture on a shiny disc. Tim prowls the stage, the desperation of the lyrics coming through in his vocals, the band just adding to it with their playing. Outside in the warm Thessaloniki air, it’s amazing.
Out To Get You has the crowd singing along and once again it ends in something resembling a free jam. The song must last eight or nine minutes as the band pair off to encourage each other and then end in a huddle around Dave’s drums. It seems to stop once and then start again.
Then something amazing happens. The opening bars of Getting Away With It start up and the crowd go absolutely wild. Mental. It’s absolutely crazy. A song that is one of the middle range recognised hits in the UK gets the best and wildest reception of the evening. The crowd start singing it before Tim gets chance and it’s difficult to hear him throughout the whole song.
Sometimes ends with the crowd singing the chorus back at the band. For those experienced in James 2008, it might seem a bit corny and put on now, but there’s real emotion in the way the crowd just pick up on Larry and Andy and take it away. As tradition goes, it kicks into Laid which has an extended outro with Andy blasting trumpet out over Dave’s frenetic drum beat. And then they’re gone.
Mark comes out first for the encore and starts to play the extended intro to Sit Down as the rest of the band make their way back to the stage. The crowd holler back every word. Sound goes off in a number of different tangents, stopping, starting, stopping again, going quiet, getting loud. Yet every time they do it, it sounds different to how they’ve done it before. It’s simply wonderful stuff.
That’s meant to be it, but as the band take their bows, the crowd start singing Say Something. Really loud. There’s no way they can leave without playing it so they do. Tim fluffs the words at one point which almost has Saul bent double as the crowd look on confused. It finishes with an improvised outro and Tim back out on the barrier. The applause is deafening and the band stand there for a good few minutes taking in the applause.
An excellent show in a stunning setting.