Dust Motes / Dream Thrum / Tell Her I Said So / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Hymn From A Village / Ring The Bells / It’s Hot / Jam J / I Wanna Go Home / Out To Get You / Five-O / Stutter / Got The Shakes / Johnny Yen / Say Something / Laid / Sound / Sit Down / Born Of Frustration / Sometimes / Tomorrow / Top Of The World
VIP Soundcheck : Gold Mother / Destiny Calling / Tell Her I Said So / Got The Shakes
review by Peter W Caton
Seven members. Driven together to create. To explore. To energize. To entertain. Seven stand on the stage. Seven playing as one, all for the world to hear.
The night started with a VIP warm-up session with the band. After considerable delays, all brought on by the seemingly unprepared 930 Club staff, the VIPers walked into to an already in session performance of Gold Mother.
The atmosphere was immediately filled with electric anticipation. Gagging from the small crowd, not too many were familiar with Gold Mother, but the band’s exuberance lured everyone in immediately.
After Gold Mother finished, Tim joked that we (the audience) shouldn’t interrupt them when they were giving birth; that they (the band) hadn’t played that song (Gold Mother) in sometime and were considering it for tonight’s show.
In response, an audience member shouted a request, We’re Going to Miss You. Saul immediately started playing the chords to the song, and quietly whispered the chorus in his mic. Tim said that the band hadn’t played that in years and wasn’t prepared to play that one. The band opted for Destiny Calling instead. The night was to be filled with first time songs for me, as I’d never heard Destiny Calling live. It was brilliant. And with all the tweens ruling the world, the song’s even more topical than ever.
Next, Tim wanted to get audience participation, so he encouraged his fellow band mates to play Got the Shakes. Before he started, Tim accidentally deleted a file off his Macbook. This delayed the song for a few minutes while Tim fooled around, trying to recover his file. After the delay, Got the Shakes began…. the audience participated by “humming” at the end. It was rousing, as we hummed, and Tim shouted, “Don’t Mess With the Thunder!”
That was it. Three songs. And so, a 930 Club staffer came into show us out. But Tim implored the staffer to let us (the audience) stay for one more. The band decided to play “Tell Her I Said So” and Tim prompted us for another sing along. The song finished brilliant, with us singing the choir part, and Tim singing over us. Who needs a children’s choir when you’ve got such a willing audience? Sounded brilliant, and I could tell Tim’s eyes were full of fire…..
The hours ebbed after that. There was a dull, pallid humidity in the air, neither here nor there. The wind swirled outside, as the crowds began to grow stronger outside the doors. We waited and waited. Delays caused by the 930 Club again caused tension, confusion, and isolation.
Next, inside. Anticipation. Murmurs. Laughter. All to a beautiful crescendo as James finally made their entrance on stage.
And it was a night to remember as James produced another thrilling show at the 930 Club in Washington D.C. Monday night.
The set started with the haunting Dust Motes. Tim teased us that ‘the show would get louder’ but that they would start slow. The Morning After is such a beautiful record, and Dust Motes, exemplifies the beautiful sorrow found there. The crowd is again, unfamiliar with the tune, but slowly warm up to the song’s sadness. It’s beauty. And, understanding.
Next, Dream Thrum…. another oldie off Laid that has been resurrected as a result of the band’s time in America. Something about America brings up the old, more daring James. A band willing to take chances, trust the audience, that they will respond to the unfamiliar. The audience were definitely familiar with Dream Thrum though and applauded heavily as it started. After talking to several in the crowd, most people I talked to were fans of Laid first and foremost, so it is no wonder the audience responded so well to Dream Thrum. I only hope we hear others off Laid, like Skin Diving in the coming weeks.
Tell Her I Said So was next – Tim said this song was written by his 90 year old mother. Tim encouraged and got another sing-a-long. And he got it. Beautiful with even a larger audience, all singing, “Here’s to long life….” while Tim sang, “Here’s to a life that’s lived too long” the song rose to even greater heights.
A newspaper article had apparently come out the day before stating that James last gig at the 930 club was the best show at this venue in 30 years. Before starting the next song, Tim reference this and said that, ‘I don’t think we played this one last time.” The band was definitely out to top themselves, thriving on the pressure of performing with even more intensity, creativity. And so Getting Away With It played next.. Strangely enough, no interruptions this time around- the song finished smoothly.
Then, there was a blur. I am still trying to recount the night. The band, Tim, seemed to want to drag us all into being. As if the band sensed we were still lulled into a doldrum given all the waiting, the humid Fall weather. The band set out this night to pull us in from our slumber, and remind us how to listen, to sing, and to continually do something out of character. And it was something special, as we all obliged. The audience was in rapture. Dancing and jamming to everything the band threw at us. One song after another, the band unleashed a pulsating set, almost one full hour and a half with no breaks.
About mid-way through the set, before they started Stutter, there was a bit of comedy after Mark’s laptop computer crashed again (the show had been delayed as both his computers crashed). Everyone could tell that something happened as a loud sound echoed from Mark’s keyboard. Tim started in about how this would never happen if it was a Mac, and that this is a good commercial for people buying Macs. Saul joked that, sure, Macs are great if someone can help you when you delete something. Tim blushed, and the two carried on back and forth, engaging in a playful tête-à-tête. Larry even piped in at the end. The audience laughed at every step.
In a way, for me, I got laid with James for the first time as it was their first performance that I heard them play some of their older songs, such as Hymn from a Village, Stutter and Johnny Yen. Sure, I’ve heard these songs live in a recorded sense, but never live in a venue. Stutter electrified, becoming even more chaotic, more vibrantly punctual than before. Tim joked after the song finished that ‘ that’s to show you that were not a pop band.’
A pop band they are not. James are a band that thrives on the unknown. But those who know James shouldn’t be surprised that Tim dove into the crowd for Say Something. Tim was instantly mobbed, and security had to pull adoring fans off him before he could continue with the song. Tim finished standing on the bar. Tim then had to be escorted back on stage, as the band fired up Laid. Tim threw in his lovely Ándale! ¡Ándale! ¡Arriba! ¡Arriba…. which is nice to hear live on American soil (I hadn’t heard Tim sing this Spanish bit during their American shows). Sound wrapped off a feverish night… the band said goodnight. The audience, did not.
Tim and Larry returned playing Sit Down. Larry’s vibrant guitar playing, well making up for the lack of other band member accompaniment. Honestly, I think Sit Down is best with a single instrument, Larry’s guitar or Mark’s piano. Simple. Beautiful. Tim and Larry it was this time, and the two wove their way through the back of the crowd, towards the stage, as the audience continued to sing. The rest of the band returned on stage to end the song, Andy encouraging everyone to sit down…. people wanted to, me included, but there wasn’t any room on the audience floor; it was a sold out show.
Born of Frustration came next. The audience knew this one and howled at the beginning. Those of us with a voice still left echoed Tim’s opening….
At last, the band came to Sometimes. Every time I hear an audience sing the chorus, I am amazed. We won’t let the band go. Won’t let the moment pass. Dave has to start in on the drums to pull us back. Otherwise, we’d sing “Sometimes, when I look in your eyes, I can see your soul” all night long. Not caring our voices are cracked. Are hoarse. No, nothing like this matters. Not when James are in town.
Sometimes finished. The band bowed. Exited the stage. The audience chanted and chanted. Applause rang out. The roar of the crowd hung in the air. Five, ten minutes passed. Then the lights came on, the corny background music swelled up over the crowd, signaling an end…. but as we all turned to leave, the lights dimmed, the canned music stopped, and the band reappeared, singing Tomorrow. The energy never waned. It only was redirected for a moment. And James pulled us back in, and we returned their energy, as the band played on. That looked to be the last, but the audience wouldn’t let go. Tim sensing something special, turned to Saul, and both agreed, one more. To wind us down, Tim, Jim and Saul played Top of the World. Saul’s hovering with his violin, creating a peaceful, yet present energy that filled the crowd once more. This time though, it was the end. Sadly, this night had to end.
And then, they were off. Off into the night. Earlier, I saw Andy take off on his bike after the warm-up finished. After the show finished, I took off as well. Like Andy, disappearing from the crowds. Disconnecting from the energy of the hundreds, and focusing in on the singular energy of the self. Around me, the crowds faded as I walked deeper into the night. Back to my hotel, knowing that in a few days, I’d get laid again. Though for the moment, I still held this night in me. Savoring this night a few hours more, before sleep finally took me. And when sleep did come, I did so with the aid of this lovely lullaby. A lullaby that is filled with the breathe of sadness. A touch of madness. And always, with the knowledge that I had searched and found a new kind of truth.
by Andrew Beaujon, TBD Arts
Twenty-four hours ago, I sat at my dining room table being surprised at how many James songs I knew while writing a preview of the group’s concert last night at 9:30 Club. Two-and-a-half hours ago, I realized that boning up on the hits was not enough prep for the show. One hour ago, I was texting my wife “still playing it’s been over 2 hours we are on encore 4.”
James, it turns out, is a deep cuts band. It’s also a band with a guy who plays trumpet in silver robes. I guess those things necessarily go hand in hand.
Before the show, I was curious who would attend a James show. When I saw Superchunk the Friday before last, the audience was mostly people like me — late 30s, early 40s, men balding, everyone getting rounder.
At the James show, there were a lot more people. The place was packed! And the folks here were considerably better-looking. James was popular among college-radio types just before indie rock starting asserting itself, and yet these people were superior, genetically, than the folks a couple years behind them.
No one hauled me off to the room in the basement where ugly people are forced to ice cupcakes till they get more attractive, so I was able to compile a few facts while dodging the anti-dessicated-geezer patrols.
9:10 Tim Booth’s voice goes high, in a song I don’t know because it’s on James’ new album.
9:17 Another new song. Beginning to suspect I made a mistake by focusing on the greatest hits CD to get ready for this.
9:20 I realize singer Tim Booth is wearing harem pants.
9:23 Booth’s falsetto goes a little awry. Such mistakes will not be repeated.
9:27 Andy Diagram, the fellow in silver robes if my Googling is on point, starts playing maracas, like Bez but with a purpose in life.
9:36 Booth picks up maracas. I have completely underestimated this band.
9:29 I approvingly count three bald men on stage.
9:47 Tense, boggy songs starting to get hard to keep track of. I ask someone next to me what the title of this song is. He doesn’t know. He seems ecstatic. Tim Booth nails a superlong note.
9:50 There are two kinds of Tim Booth dances tonight. One is an all-out Michael Stipe-y thing where he waves his limbs around like a short-circuited belly-dancing robot. Then there’s this one, where he stares intensely at someone who’s soloing, as if they’re screwing up and he just can’t believe it. Then his head swivels around. Possibly 360 degrees but I was pretty high up, behind a bunch of people, and had lousy sightlines.
10:02 Heading into Hour Two, we have some computer trouble. “This is a lesson to buy a Mac instead of a PC,” says Booth, to a roar from the crowd. “Elitist snob” says another member (I can’t see who). Tech support jokes follow.
10:14 Crowd is getting hungry for a hit. The textures are impressive, the harmonies spot-on, and dammit some of us listened to a greatest hits album to get ready for tonight and have bupkus for song titles in our notes.
10:20 “Say Something.” Prep paying off! Booth climbs onto barrier, then onto bar in the middle of the room. He finishes the song there.
10:25 “Laid.” Stop, you’re hurting me! Confetti blasts.
10:37 The band takes a long bow. I ask two people the name of the song they played after “Laid.” No one knows. It was good!
FIRST ENCORE Booth, now wearing a long silver jacket, goes into crowd with guitarist (couldn’t see, think it was the bald guy). They play “Sit Down” to general ecstasy. When the musicians head back to the stage, one big bear of a fellow rubs Booth’s head affectionately.
NEXT (sorry, didn’t write down time) “Born of Frustration,” which ends with a slightly problematic but totally cool war whoop.
10:51 “Sometimes.” Audience members are twirling ecstatically, like jam-band audiences. Hey, wait a second…
10:55 A coda to “Sometimes.” Booth borrows a camera from the crew that’s been videoing James all night and records the audience singing the chorus — “Sometimes / When I look into your eyes / I can see your soul” — really loud. He points it up toward where I am. I have no soul, Tim. I work on the Internet. Band brings the song back.
10:59 Another long bow. House lights go up a little but a spotlight is still beaming to the top floor.
11:01 Back out. “Tomorrow.” Then another long bow. Then Booth whispers to band, and they strap instruments back on. “Hey you sold out tonight,” he tells the crowd. “We love playing here. We’ll be back.” They play one last quiet song. I didn’t know it, but it was very nice.