Johnny Yen / She’s A Star / Beast Inside / I Want You / Hymn From A Village / Chain Mail / Say Something / She Comes In The Fall / Laid / Sit Down / Sleep Well Tonight
Cavfest is a festival arranged by the Cavendish Community Primary School PTA to raise funds for the school, where Jim’s kids and grand-kids have attended. Steve Hanley, ex of the Fall and part of Tom Hingley’s band, The Lovers, works at the school and came up with the idea of combining Tom with Jim, Larry and Dave to headline the festival. Also on the bill are Chameleons Vox and Tom’s own band The Lovers along with a few local bands. There’s a crowd of about 800-1000 when the four take to the stage.
In James fashion, it takes a few minutes to get the sound sorted out, and they start off with Johnny Yen. It’s slightly surreal hearing someone else singing it with Jim, Larry and Dave up there on stage. Seeing James songs played by a four-piece hasn’t happened for over two decades too. But it works. Tom’s vocal range and strengths are different to Tim’s and the choice of the James songs in the set appears to have been made with this in mind, so it works really well, rather than being what could have been awful if not done with care and attention – the same would apply if you put Tim in fronting the Inspirals and got him to sing I Want You, it wouldn’t work or would sound forced.
Tom adds his own improvisations into the tracks, name-checking James Dean at the end of Johnny Yen, and later turning a line of Sit Down into political comment – “I could live the Tories, if I wasn’t so fucking poor” and it’s great to hear James as a three-piece musically with the core spine of bass, guitar and drums. Jim’s bass sometimes gets lost with the addition of extra guitar, violin, keys and trumpets and tonight it’s right up in the mix – and it reminds you just how great a bass player he is, keeping it relatively simple but nailing it completely. It’s always a joy to hear Dave play songs from the era before he joined James as well, songs written for a four-piece with the drums higher in the mix because of Gavan and his style, which Dave puts his own spin on, but which shows why they were so insistent to get him in.
The Inspirals songs in the set work equally well. Shorn of Clint’s keyboards, Jim, Larry and Dave nail the songs brilliantly – particularly I Want You and She Comes In The Fall. You also realise how much a job Steve Holt will have stepping back into the Inspirals and Tom’s considerable shoes when they go back out on the road later this year.
The four of them clearly enjoyed putting this set together, and being friends as far back as the 1989 tour when the Inspirals supported James, the collaboration made perfect sense for the cause, but you actually feel by the end that they could take this out on the road during James downtime or if Tim did a follow-up to Love Life. There’s a lot of mutual respect there and putting together the set in a few days would take more than just musical ability, but a connection – Tom says, and you believe him, that it’s been one of the best weeks of his life. Heaven knows what they did in the rehearsal studio that we’ll never, sadly, get to hear.