Lose Control (Acoustic) / Seven / Just Like Fred Astaire / Ring the Bells / Dust Motes / Tell Her I Said So / Johnny Yen / Hymn from a Village / It’s Hot / Ten Below / Born of Frustration / Jam J / I Wanna Go Home / Out to Get You / Stutter / Crazy / Sound / Sit Down / Say Something / Sometimes / Gold Mother / Laid
VIP Soundcheck – Basic Brian / Five-O / Gold Mother / Tell Her I Said So
Review by Peter W Caton
Tonight, James made their way to the windy city where it felt like it was ten below outside. Good thing the band was there to warm us all up.
The sound check opened with Basic Brian. A wonderfully melodic song from Wah-Wah. A rarity in the live arena. James had debuted Brian at the previous night show in Michigan and it was good to hear it again tonight. Wah-Wah is just a brilliantly discordant record. Sometimes there are allusive jams, and next, there are wonderfully, near complete songs. Brian is somewhere in between the chaos and a dream. Five-O followed, with Tim exclaiming that “Five-O just isn’t sounding right, so it needs work.” Personally, I think Five-O sounded great in DC, and it sounded just as good tonight. Then, Gold Mother, which the banded teased that would make it’s debut in the show proper. If so, would there be on stage dancing during the lie show? Only time would tell. The sound checked finished with Tell Her I Said So, again with an audience sing-a-long.
The show proper started with Tim and Larry playing Lose Control acoustically. The two wove their way from the back of the crowd toward the stage. Tim with a mic in hand; Larry with a guitar. The audience didn’t have time to even warm up the band with an applause- the lights weren’t even dimmed yet as the two started playing. The music just appeared from cacophony of the audience’s pre-show chatter. As the first chord was strummed, there was a hush of excitement. The audience, turned. And Larry and Tim emerged from the darkness off-stage . Tim and Larry gave us a vibrant rendition of Lose Control with Larry strumming his guitars, tempting the familiar chords into a new life, into a new world, while Tim’s voice echoed the pain of a man adrift in some dark night.
Next, came Seven, which is one of my personal favorites. The refrain, God made love to me, soothed away my gravity, gave me a pair of angel’s wings, clear vision and some magic things, is one of the most beautiful passages ever written. Hearing Seven live was a pleasure. While Seven may not have the end of the show gloss like a Sound, or Sometimes, Seven still holds such lyrical beauty. Expounding the search for love, the balance of the heart, and the mystery found in between the discovery and the dream, Seven is a lovely song which I hope continues to be played for years to come.
After Seven finished, Tim revealed to the audience that he had looked at the setlist from two years ago, and not to retread old ground, the band wanted to play songs they hadn’t played for us before. And so the night would prove to be a new journey for us all.
Tim then said that Jim had played a brilliant new intro to Just Like Fred Astaire, but had already forgotten what he played Luckily, Tim had recorded Jim’s intro on his iPhone and promptly held his iPhone up to the mic to play it for the audience (and for Jim so he could play it again).
Unfortunately, Tim’s plan didn’t work, as all anyone would could hear when he held his iPhone up to the mic was distortion. Larry came over to help Tim hold the iPhone’s speaker directly into the mic (Tim had his iPhone positioned wrong, hence the distortion). Saul joked about Tim being a “so called modern man” and by the time we could hear something other than garble, Tim had given up the idea.
None of this mattered of course, as the band launched into Just Like Fred Astaire with great fervor. The audience loved this too, and sang the song all the way through.
Hearing new songs again tonight really brought a new energy to the show. And this what makes James a brilliant band. Never sitting back and being lazy, always exploring, feeding, energizing not only themselves, but those who enjoy them.
The show evolved and grew. The energy was thick and alive. The audience was amazing. Responding without hesitation to the band’s enthusiasm and spirit. At times, Tim would stop singing songs and just watch us all, like a curious scientist, examining the results of an experiment, Tim was curious to see what we would do when he just, stopped singing. How we would respond to his silence. Each time we responded the same- we continued to sing. Raising our voices higher and higher, letting the band play on and on.
At the end of the show, when Gold Mother was played, audience members were brought on stage to dance. Even on such a small stage, the audience members danced and gyrated to the song as if they had all the space in the world. While some of them ignored Tim’s warning not to take photos or videos, none of it mattered, as the unscripted uncertainty unfolded, the audience members unwinding, opening up, letting themselves go, finding their courage through their dance. The dancers’ energy was intoxicating, and Gold Mother gave birth to new sounds, a new presence that felt even more alive than ever before.
There was one more song. The few on stage were allowed to stay, and Laid was there to close the set. We didn’t want to let the band go; the audience could have cheered them on all night. But all good things must come to an end, and alas, the band said ‘goodnight.’
And as I left the venue, I had the thought, the realization that the band feels even freer than they were two years ago. Happier. Healthier. I see Mark talking. Smiling even. I see Andy dancing. Moving around the stage more like he did in the days of the Seven album and tour. The dialogue between Saul, Tim and Larry is amusing. Humorous. Filled with a camaraderie found only with the closest of friends. And they are friends. All of them. A band of brothers. Of mates, all wanting to play music, create art, and move through the sanity and chaos together, as one.
It seems as though the band has no more shackles. No more fear. There is a contentment in this reformation. A peace. While their bodies are older, their spirits are all free. And so the audience is rejuvenated from the songs, just as the band find their tempo, their rhythms, so too, do we all. The band writes songs we can identify with. The band plays with an energy we are tune with. And from this place, we all move forward. Pressing on from what haunts us. Moving forward from what binds us to our place. We are able to reexamine ourselves with their music, and the band is able to help find balance through us. It is a wonderful symbiosis that exists between us, as an audience, and James, as a band; one that I hope continues for years to come.