Lose Control (acoustic) / Heavens / Whiteboy / Seven / Waltzing Along / Hymn From A Village / Laid / I Wanna Go Home / Just Like Fred Astaire (acoustic) / Space / Johnny Yen / Come Home / Sometimes / Ring The Bells / Sit Down / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
Sound Island Festival resembles one of those Manchester vs Liverpool heavyweight face-offs today – in the Red corner James and the Inspiral Carpets, in the Blue corner Echo And The Bunnymen, Space and The Farm. Despite the over-zealous security, the hour-long queues to get a beer, a food range that consisted of cardboard burgers and guess the meat Chinese and a dubious sound system, the line-up more than made up for any shortcomings.
James come on about fifteen minutes after the scheduled start time. One of the problems of festivals is that you don’t get a proper soundcheck and it’s clear there’s something not working and it’s nearly ten minutes before they actually start. Tim struggles to get his in-ears to function, but even worse, Mark’s keyboards don’t seem to be working. There’s an awkward moment when you wonder what’s going to happen, Tim starts to tell the only joke he knows (the penguin joke – see the bottom for it in full) and then decides he doesn’t want to tell it half-way through. After Larry appears to start playing a bit of She’s A Star, they decide to open with an acoustic version of Lose Control.
Everything’s soon fixed apart from the odd hiccup. It’s gigs like this that make James stand out from their contemporaries. There’s nothing released to promote (no mention of the B-S here), there’s sound issues which would make most bands go for a safe set and a crowd that would lap up a greatest hits set one after the other, but they veer away from that to a set that gives everybody something.
You get the likes of Heavens, Whiteboy, Hymn From A Village, I Wanna Go Home and Space for the hardcore James fans, all of which stand up against the bigger songs in the set. There’s a comedy moment when Whiteboy doesn’t quite work and Tim brings the song to a halt, but the crowd don’t mind and even those that don’t know it join in the handclapping in time to Tim’s pummelling of the cowbell. Hymn From A Village is older than large parts of the crowd, yet sounds revitalised and energetic and the lyrics as relevant today as they’ve always been.
There’s also a rather beautiful acoustic Just Like Fred Astaire, dedicated to the fans that travel long distances to see them, in the middle of the set and there’s even time to tweak songs like I Wanna Go Home to make it sound different in parts to how it’s sounded before. We get Come Home which hasn’t been played in the UK for a while and it’s a real shame that Honest Joe and Medieval have to be dropped because of curfew restrictions (and nice to see the organisers took the sensible approach of scheduling a 10.45pm finish, but allowing the band to play until 11) as that would have given the less-experienced James gig-goer a chance to see yet another side of the band. The set finishes with a quintet of hits to send the crowd home buzzing as well – Tim also comes down to the barrier for Laid and Sometimes, getting the audience to singalong with the latter whilst balancing precariously over the first few rows. Tim says Sit Down should have been used for the Olympic ceremony. Not having seen it but having read the coverage that it celebrated Britishness, you’d have to agree that it captures the British psyche perfectly, far more than a washed up old man with his thumbs in the air being rolled out to do a three week version of Hey Jude. Tonight, it’s slowed down, acoustic at the start, totally against the rampant breakneck version of their best known song that any other band would throw into a festival set.
A triumph against the odds again. Despite the technical gremlins, getting away with it all messed up.
The penguin joke – A woman is driving along the freeway when she sees a truckload of penguins stopped by the road. She pulls over and asks if she can help. The driver of the truck says she could take them to the zoo. The next day, the woman’s driving along with the penguins in the car when she gets stopped by a policeman who asks why she has penguins in the car. She says “Well I took them to the zoo yesterday and today I’m taking them to the cinema”