Sit Down / Ring The Bells / Hymn From A Village / It’s Hot / Dr Hellier / Ten Below / I Know What I’m Here For / Come Home / Porcupine / I Wanna Go Home / Out To Get You / Crazy / Stutter / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Tomorrow / Sound / Johnny Yen / Sometimes / Laid / Say Something / Top Of The World
It’s over 25 years since James were last here, supporting The Smiths on the Meat Is Murder tour. Tonight the sold out signs all belong to James. There’s a few gaps in the seats and the standing isn’t as packed as it should be – as the air restrictions in place because of the Icelandic volcano means many fans are unable to travel.
As the lights go down, there’s trumpet call from the heavens and the lights shine on Andy at the back of the arena in one of the boxes. Then Larry’s guitar strikes up for Sit Down and he and Tim appear in the stalls seats at the back. As they go down to the standing area, Tim stacks it and ends up on his back, but continues to sing. The crowd, from those in the standing to those in the gods of gallery standing sing along, wave their arms in the air and generally go bananas. As at the other shows, it’s a killer way to start the show. Ring The Bells, by the time they make it back to the stage, gets the moshpit area going, the people further back dancing and most of the stalls still standing. The sound’s a bit ropey, the cavernous hall not really set up for this type of music, but it gets better as the show goes on. Hymn From A Village is fast and frenetic, again the lighting adding to it, flashes of yellow matching Tim singing drumbeat.
The three new songs take the pace of the crowd down a little, which is to be expected, but there’s not widespread chattering in the area we were stood. We continue to dance, there’s still arms raised in parts of the crowd. It’s Hot is still intriguing, the arrangement different from the Night Before version. Dr Hellier is dark, almost satanic in its brooding, menacing delivery. Ten Below is the pick of the three, one of those James songs that just grows and grows and grows the more you listen to it.
I Know What I’m Here For takes the pace back up and the crowd respond. Come Home then sees Tim make his way into the stalls area and through the crowd until he reaches Lee Muddy Baker who he embraces in a warm hug, before moving back to the stage. As before, the two tracks are both ragged, chaotic and almost on the verge of collapse, but it’s that thrill that makes them so exciting and thrilling.
Tim dons his mirrorball jacket, last seen on the 1999 Millionaires tour, and mounts the mirrorball box for a beautiful version of Porcupine, the reflection off the jacket swirling around the hall. I Wanna Go Home is as magical as ever, taking James’ knack of taking what appears a relatively sedate song on the album and turning it into a monster, not by turning up the volume, but by the interplay of the instruments and Tim’s vocal, which seems to stretch out the “home” for longer and longer every time they play it. Fitting it and Out To Get You next together is interesting as they are the two most compelling James tracks of that ilk.
Crazy is just that, again embodying what James do so well live, taking a song and twisting it and turning it. In the days of proper singles, it would have been massive.
Stutter is, as ever, utterly phenomenal. It forces people to shut up and watch and dance and as it builds to its stunning crescendo, you think this is why this band are the greatest in the world. Imagine sticking Honest Joe right on the back of it and you’d have something strong enough to bring down walls and ceilings.
The ending of the set really nails it for James. It’s hits or should be hits all the way now. Getting Away With It prompts a mass singalong, Tomorrow a mass mosh and Sound really catches fire tonight in a way it hasn’t quite on the dates I’ve seen before. Larry ends up guitarless with a megaphone. They leave and come back with a stunning version of Johnny Yen. The extended singalong of Sometimes needs no encouragement, whilst Laid has the floor shaking and Larry in the crowd. The slowed down Say Something works brilliantly and has the crowd singing back again. Top Of The World, a typically James curveball, closes the set with a comedown, a chill out, but still generates (off-key) clapping and some bizarre dog-like yelping from a woman at the back of the standing area.