Dance Of The Bad Angels / Down To The Sea / Bless Them All / Wave Hello / Monkey God / You Can’t Tell How Much Suffering (On A Face That’s Always Smiling) / Consequences / As Far As I Can See / Bone / Old Ways / Monsters / Shatters / Falling Down / All About Time / Fall In Love With Me / The Point Of Darkness / Buried Alive / The Man Of A Thousand Faces
review by oneofthethree
The Glee Club isn’t a great gig venue – it’s set up primarily as a comedy club, is probably four times wider than it is deep and the main speakers are only a couple of inches from a low ceiling which means there’s quite a bit of bass distortion in parts of the venue. The low ceiling also makes lighting effectively difficult as well without blinding people. Still, there’s a very good crowd in for an Easter Sunday and once Unkle Bob have entertained us with their own brand of intelligent, emotive guitar pop, it’s time for the main act.
Rather than starting in the crowd with As Far As I Can See as on previous nights, the band come on to the stage and immediately there’s a false start to Dance Of The Bad Angels. Tim rescues it by promising to get each band member to tell jokes and introducing Lee who was advertised on the posters as a multi-instrumentalist, at which he point he puts him down as an average instrumentalist. Key found, Dance Of The Bad Angels provides a haunting start to the set, before Down To The Sea gets its first appearance on the tour with Dan replicating the high-pitched singing and it sounds as beautiful as it does on the album. Bless Them All starts with Tim admitting he’s forgotten his lyric sheet. It matters not as he improvises over the sections at the end he doesn’t remember as Neil and Lee provide the contrast with the backing vocals, before Tim hands the mic to the front row and joins in singing at Neil’s mic. It’s not the mass singalong that you get at James gig, but there’s something more intimate, more, dare i say it, spiritual with this.
Wave Hello is introduced as a love song and rocks – Dan hops around, Neil’s hair flies across his face. It’s interesting that whilst Saul is one of the most eminently watchable member of James, he’s more subdued for a lot of the set, but he adds a lot to the sound, particularly when he has the 12-string guitar or violin in his hand. Monkey God probably suffers most from the sound in the venue as it’s bass-heavy. Suffering is hard, fast and no longer has the Caribbean-style outro and is better for it. Consequences is dark, moody and menacing.
For As Far As I Can See, Tim ventures out into the crowd and ends up in a dance-off with a gentleman at the back of the venue – despite his valiant attempts, there’s only going to be one winner. As Tim said as he climbed back on stage “you wouldn’t see Morrissey doing that”. Bone shows off Dan’s sax playing at the start and again demonstrates the wide range of musical talent across the band, Rob’s drumming, whilst never taking centre stage, is the glue that holds everything together. Old Ways and Monsters are again highlights – showing that you can be loud but subtle at the same time. The crowd, whilst almost silent to a man during the quieter songs, don’t move too much even for these songs. Tim jokes he has blown his cool by forgetting some of the words and threatens to tell his penguin joke, before Saul steps in. The set closes with three more heavier tracks – although Shatters has a fragility to it, especially as it draws to a close with Tim half-singing, half-telling a story about children finding rainbow trout and him crying. Falling Down is wild, fun and brilliantly rearranged. All About Time is the single in waiting, a sure-fire hit were the radio to look past images and “cool”. Tim hammers out the lyrics word-perfect before Neil and Lee come in with the “take it easy” line before the singalong chorus kicks in.
Back for the encore, Birmingham listens attentively and respectfully to Fall In Love With Me, whilst The Point Of Darkness is proving to be the surprise hit of the tour – a lady in the front-row encouraged to sing the refrain outro with Tim. Luckily he picked someone who could hold a note this time round. Buried Alive seems to go on forever as the band improvise as Tim loses himself in dance. As the band play more together and get more confident, I hope we’ll see more and more of this.
There’s still time for another encore and there’s a rather odd choice of the Regina Spektor cover A Man Of A Thousand Faces – not the most obvious choice, but beautifully played. The crowd applaud wildly and still shout for more as it hasn’t reached the 11pm curfew but it’s time to go.
A great show, the performance as good as both of the first two and you see the confidence growing in the band with every gig and the bond between singer and band tightening. There are seated gigs next week which will be interesting to see how the set evolves. Pity about the sound in the venue, but it didn’t detract too much from another successful evening’s work.