As Far As I Can See / Monkey God / Wave Hello / Bless Them All / Consequences / Dance Of The Bad Angels / Old Ways (abandoned) / Gloria Descends / Old Ways / You Can’t Tell How Much Suffering (On A Face That’s Always Smiling) / Down To The Sea / Bone / Shatters / Falling Down / Monsters / All About Time / Fall In Love With Me / Buried Alive / The Point Of Darkness
review by oneofthethree
Cambridge Junction 2 is an ideal venue for the sort of intimate gig that Tim is putting on this tour. It has both standing and seating areas, a high stage and high roof and a sound system that can handle both the loud and more delicate moments of Tim’s set. After an extended support slot from Unkle Bob, the lights go down and the opening strains of As Far As I Can See ring out, but as there’s noone on stage, there’s puzzlement, which is soon cured by Tim and the band appearing at the back entrance to the venue, negotiating the stairs and walking through the crowd performing the song, stopping dead centre in the standing area for the main part of it. The rest of the band make their way to the stage to finish the song whilst Tim remains in the audience until the end.
Monkey God starts and then stops abruptly, but the crowd see this as part of the charm of watching this band. They’re always on the edge – you have to be if you’re not just churning out the same set the same way every night and you’re trying to do something different with songs and messing with the setlist. Once they get it right, the crisp sound combined with the lighting create a spectacle worthy of much bigger places than this. At the end Tim and Dan appear to be having a sing-off of the “home” line. Wave Hello is equally as powerful, clear evidence that the six are getting tighter and more adventurous as this tour goes on.
Bless Them All starts with a very beautiful haunted understated melody before the chorus kicks in and the ending has everyone except Saul singing the refrain. Consequences has a darker broodier edge on stage than it does on record, Tim’s vocal laced with menace.
Tim apologises for swearing as he introduces Dance Of The Bad Angels as about “f**king God”. It’s stunning on so many levels and it’s great to have an audience that is willing to listen to material that they might not be too familiar.
The mandatory technical issues kick in. There’s some issues with Tim’s mic and then a machine’s broken so they can’t start Gloria, so they start Old Ways, which comes crashing to a halt half way through. They’ve fixed the machine now so they go back to Gloria, which agains benefits from the additional time the band have had with it as it has an angelic feel to the ending as vocals soar and dip as the music becomes more and more minimal. It’s beautiful.
Old Ways is preceded by banter between Saul, Lee and Tim about how Lee didn’t originally like the song and Saul ribs the others because he was sticking to the setlist. It rocks out and forms a perfect foil for How Much Suffering, which has the instrumental outro added back in.
Down To The Sea sees Tim jump down onto the barrier and then into the crowd where he tries to encourage a guy to dance who isn’t moving around and then he moves on to dance with a woman. Tim’s travels don’t disguise a great performance from the band on the song, Dan’s backing vocals don’t sound like they should be coming from a bearded 25 year old, whilst Neil and Rob’s bass and drums again form the spine of the song that the others play around. Tim jokes that his venture into the crowd was less of a stagedive than a stately walkabout.
Once Tim finds himself back on stage, Bone starts and ends with sax that sends ripples around the venue and sends the hairs on the back of the neck on end. It’s loose, free-flowing and has some of the crowd dancing. Again, the crowd listen, almost in awe, at the sax solo outro, with Tim commenting that it draws more out of the band with people listening.
Shatters features some beautiful violin from Saul, after another false start where Tim and Saul joke about who started the song at the right time – for effect, Saul counts Tim in.
It’s always amusing to listen to the start of Falling Down and watch the crowd’s faces when Tim starts singing and they realise what the song is. Rarely played live by James, and to be honest never really mastered when they did, it bears the imprint of this band on it like a big irremovable tattoo. Monsters is huge, throbbing, pulsating and menacing, building to a crescendo. All About Time has some subtle new arrangements to do it, driven by a heckle that it sounded like Status Quo in Birmingham and brings the set to a great close.
The encore starts with Fall In Love With Me and Tim’s requests for listening are perfectly adhered to as his voice pierces the air in the hall. Buried Alive features an end of song jam that is getting less rigid and more fluid by the night. The Point Of Darkness again works brilliantly as a set-closer, there’s no singalong from the crowd tonight, but the band leave the stage with Tim still singing it and Neil still playing acoustic, with them finishing the song in the dressing room.
Another excellent show – it’s a real shame that this isn’t being played out to bigger audiences, a sad testimony to the state of the music industry today, where people are force-fed manufactured pop, indie by numbers or are taken on a nostalgia trip of hits from the nineties and “classic album” gigs. James, by and large, have avoided that to some extent, yet this is right out there on the fringes – under-rehearsed yes, but thrilling, exciting and mesmerising. Do yourself a favour and get to one of these shows that are left.