Lose Control / Seven / Waltzing Along / Born Of Frustration / Waterfall / Ring The Bells / Dream Thrum / Senorita / Whiteboy / Stutter / Out To Get You / Sound / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Tomorrow / Sit Down / Laid
The Fiz Festival takes place in a big auditorium in the shadow of Real Zaragoza’s football stadium. It looks like a big aircraft hanger, has a bizarre queueing system for drinks and by the time James come on about 12.15am, it’s full of Spaniards and the odd traveller waiting in anticipation for James. As has become something of tradition, Tim, Larry and Andy weave their way through the crowd singing and playing Lose Control. For a minute, the crowd look confused but the spotlights help them. If the crowd wasn’t up for it already, the instant connection of being amongst them builds the anticipation even more and you can see the steam rising. Seven starts with an elongated opening as there’s some sound problems on stage at least, it sounds fine out in the crowd.
Waltzing Along appears to be a local favourite and Tim dedicates to someone in the crowd and the masses go wild, jumping, dancing, but not in the aggressive way you sometimes get at British gigs, waving arms, hugging each other, singing and clapping along. Like their Iberian counterparts in Portugal, it’s a pleasure to be at a gig with them and something you need to experience.
Despite being restricted to about an hour and a half by the ridiculous timings that meant DJs at 4am got the same sort of time as the headline band meaning that the opportunity to play more obscure songs in the set, the rest of the set was quite varied and not just a greatest hits. Old favourites like Born Of Frustration, Ring The Bells, the local favourite Senorita sat arm in arm with newer material such as Waterfall and Whiteboy and the vicious blast from the past that is Stutter and the melancholy that is Dream Thrum. The latter, whilst I can see it working well with the orchestra and choir, has been on the set a long time now and the one real disappointment is that we don’t get a Sunday Morning, Government Walls or an Honest Joe in its place. The crowd though, clap along, rather than talking or wandering off to the bar.
Stutter and Out To Get You vent fury in different ways, the former’s wall of noise seemingly getting more ferocious each time it’s played and Saul taking charge of the outro of the latter, never sounding the same as he’s played it before. Sound is fresher and more invigorated as a one-off at a festival gig than hearing every night of a tour, taking new twists and turns as it reaches its crescendo. The set ends with the trio of hits Getting Away With It, which is possibly their second biggest song after Sometimes in this part of the world, a frenetic Tomorrow, when Tim treats the barrier as part of the stage, and a beautiful Sit Down, that sees the front rows follow Tim’s instruction and place themselves on the sticky arena floor as the song is taken right down.
The ridiculous timings mean there’s no real time for an encore, so the crowd are deprived of Sometimes, and Tim comes down to pull a few lucky people out of the crowd to get on stage and dance and mischievously they drag out the end of a wild Laid as if to make a point to the organisers. Larry ends up throwing his guitar to a lucky guy in the front row. It’s clear by the exodus post-gig that James were the main act on the night, and denying them another ten minutes due to initial sound problems of the venue’s making isn’t fair to anyone.
Whilst there’s no such thing of a typical James festival set, this ticks all the boxes as to what the basic ingredients are – hits, great interaction with the crowd, newer material, the odd curveball and improvisation that marks them out. A brilliant night, they had the crowd eating out of their hands, grinning, singing, dancing – everything you want from a headliner.
Tim tells the crowd that it’s always a pleasure to be in Spain, but they need to be invited back more. Add a few of us to that invitation on the basis of tonight. And anyone wanting a chilled weekend away, get to Zaragoza before it gets taken over as European City of Culture in 2016.