SetlistDust Motes / PS / Five-O / Tell Her I Said So / Born Of Frustration / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Ring The Bells / Got The Shakes / Lookaway / Jam J / Tomorrow / I Wanna Go Home / Sit Down / Out To Get You / Laid / Sound / Stutter / She's A Star / Say Something / Sometimes
VIP Soundcheck : Five-O / Lookaway / Got The Shakes / Just Like Fred Astaire / Bring A Gun
More Information & Reviews
De Montfort Hall is like a throwback to the concert halls of old, before the time of the O2 Academy, the HMV this and the Insert Major Brand that. The staff could be your grandparents and are as courteous and polite and helpful as the monosyllabic robots of the academies are unhelpful. There’s a bizarre quirk that the bars close during the James gig except for one and you can only take water into the arena no alcohol.
James haven’t been to Leicester since the Whiplash tour in 1997. That night, Tim apologised to me from the stage for not changing the setlist very much and it being a hits laden set. Thirteen years later, you cannot throw the same accusation at the band. They go in brave for an audience that might not, in the majority, have seen much of James in that period. The beauty of the first four songs is tempered a little bit by the general lack of reaction to them, only Tell Her I Said So starting to induce some hand clapping. It’s a real shame because the performance hasn’t dropped from the other nights of the tour, you just get the sense that the setlist similar to the one in Leeds might have been better suited to this crowd.
It does get going with a trio of singles – Born Of Frustration sees Tim make his customary trip out to the crowd to be held up as he stands on the barrier. Looking around there’s movement in the centre and the back of the balcony is up standing and dancing whilst the front remain solemn and seated, as if there was a serious piece of Ibsen or Moliere going down on stage. It’s a very curious environment and different to the exuberance of Leeds and Birmingham and Brixton. Ring The Bells is a highlight, it feels refreshed, although there’s nothing obviously new to it.
It’s followed by two new songs – contrasting in their success. One of the beauties of James is that they’re never afraid to try new things, risk a song that doesn’t quite feel right to get the adrenalin going and see it where it gets taken. Got The Shakes didn’t really work in the soundcheck and to be honest, it didn’t work that well in the gig either, it doesn’t have the flow and fluidity that drive through the James live experience. Dave is taken away from his drums to play the standalone drum Saul uses on Stutter and a tambourine with his drumstick so the visuals are a bit messy as well especially when Saul and Jim crowd round Tim’s mic. The crowd are asked to sing along to the end section. However, Lookaway works wonderfully. Saul takes the piss out of Tim who plays acoustic guitar for the first time in public, and there’s a wonderful vocal interaction, that seems to be increasing to the fore across this tour, between Tim and Andy.
Jam J is another highlight. The crystal clear sound and lighting complement the song perfectly, before Tomorrow kicks life into the front rows and the place starts to heat up a bit. I Wanna Go Home maintains the pace despite it’s unfamiliarity to some of the crowd, before the band congregate stage front for the communal singing of Sit Down, which is a home run all the way. Out To Get You doesn’t reach the heights of the night before, but that’s probably asking a bit too much for it to be as damn good as Leeds every night.
Laid is crazy, Tim comes down to the barrier and then there’s Sound, ending with Andy on the balcony, surrounded by people sat down, a weird vibe. Stutter finishes off a main set that is as contrary and as ballsy as they’ve played for a long time because it would have been easier to take the hits out for Leicester route due to the length of time since they played here.
They do realise this and Saul offers the audience a choice of something they’ve never heard or She’s A Star for the first encore track. The crowd want She’s A Star and get that followed by Say Something, and Sometimes, and there’s a feeling this finally wins over the rest of the crowd, although the singalong of Sometimes doesn’t really kick in and the band bring the song back up, which allows for some wild improvisation as it hurtles to its conclusion.
So, all in all, a bit of an odd one. Nothing wrong with the performance at all and the sound and lights were superb as ever, but something didn’t quite gel tonight for a number of reasons. Let’s hope however that the band don’t see this as a failure of their more experimental sets and revert to the hits sets for the big arenas. The likes of Dust Motes, Tell Her I Said So, Stutter, Jam J, Rabbit Hole and Lookaway deserve that wider audience and you could live without a couple of the hits to give them the room to be shown off.