Waltzing Along / Sound / Ring The Bells / Lost A Friend / Interrogation / Sit Down / She’s A Star / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / Fire So Close / Space / We’re Going To Miss You / Five-O / Moving On / Waterfall / Born Of Frustration / Come Home / Medieval / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Sometimes / Laid
Echo And The Bunnymen
The first night of the tour proper and there’s an expectant mood in a heaving SECC. Echo And The Bunnymen open up proceedings and they get a decent reception from the crowd, but it’s just after nine by the time James take to the stage. Opening track Waltzing Along is a much beefed up version of the song that has figured regularly in the James set over the years and it sounds a whole lot better for it. It sets the precedent for the evening. James haven’t toured as a rock band since the end of 2010 and tonight they’re full on. Sound is thrown in earlier than usual and doesn’t have the extended outro, but is all the better for it, as Tim gets close and personal dancing with Larry. By the time we get to Ring The Bells, the venue is a heaving mass of bodies and James have already won everyone over.
Things are slowed down a bit for Lost A Friend, but there’s no loss of the vibrant urgency in the music or in Tim’s voice. Tim would later tell me there were technical problems and issues with on-stage sound, but there’s no such issues out in the crowd. They play the first of two new songs Interrogation and it’s clear that the recent writing sessions in Scotland have borne fruit to songs that will see the James legacy proud.
Sit Down brings the house down. It’s rough and raw and ready, and the 7000 or so crowd singalong to every word. It’s great to see the band are happy to play it this time round as, however many times you hear it on the radio, it never fails to ignite a crowd. She’s A Star is underpinned by a beautiful discrete piano line from Mark.
The band are joined on stage by a choir for the next part of the set and we get a looping lolloping Of Monsters And Heroes And Men which builds majestically to a climax, Fire So Close which has a stunning interplay between Larry’s guitar and Saul’s violin and a wonderful outro from the latter. Space has all the fire and fury that got mixed out in the production of the recorded version, and the choir lift We’re Going To Miss You into a mantra that the crowd sing back to the band. Five-O is as beautifully poignant as ever.
Second new song, and potential new single, Moving On with its chorus of “I’m on my way, leave a little light on” will go down as a James classic, it has the warm hug of familiarity, whilst maintaining its own personality and not feeling at all out of place amongst the bigger hitters in the set. Waterfall is simply magnificent, Andy’s trumpet throwing all sorts of shapes across the song, and Tim holding a note longer than you would think biologically possible. The main set ends with Born Of Frustration and Come Home, which get the four people in the venue not already dancing around with lunatic grins on their faces beaming and bouncing from side to side.
The choir come back for the encore and they start with Medieval, the marching beat and the chanted chorus mean that it’s irrelevant it’s a 25 year old album track. Getting Away With It has the same delirious effect it always has on the audience, before we get to that contentious double-header to close the set. Tonight Sometimes and Laid together feel like the perfect way to bring the set to a close as they fit the mood of what’s gone before, the singalong has started before Sometimes is taken down and Laid is more raw and raucous than ever.
review by Stuart Ralston
Incredibly, this is their 7th visit to Glasgow’s infamous exhibition centre. Even more incredibly, some 6000 thousand people have ventured out to see James tonight. Not bad, considering that they haven’t released any new material in nearly 3 years. Bands tour to promote new records. Not James though. When dates were announced, I thought the size of some of the venues on the tour were a little bit ambitious. To my surprise, the large, soul-less shed is nearly full. Given their lack of record label, and promotion, this is a major result for James. In the last couple of years, many bands are struggling to shift tickets. James don’t seem to have that problem. In theory this is “the Gathering Sound Tour” but it is not. The only reference to the now legendary box set is on the posters advertising the tour. Instead of a Gathering Sound tour, it looks as though it is another celebration tour with a few new tracks being road tested, and a few more obscure tracks thrown in too.
Opening with Waltzing Along for the second night in a row is a master stroke. A well known Best Of… track, it gets the crowd going. Not only that, the band use it as a warm up, with all 7 of them coming in when they wish. Starting off as a jam, rather than the poptastic smash hit the crowd are used to breathes new life into what many of us see as the weakest track in their back catalogue. This jam approach gets the thumbs up from me. What a great start. The next re-evaluation is Sound. Pretty much always in the set, but never this early. Again, the band treat it as an extended jam but at the same time, for both band and audience, it is a triumph. Ring The Bells, another staple, particularly at Glasgow gigs is up next and there is a real feeling of “oh no, they’re going best of” for me. It does the job of keeping the crowd happy and James have clearly understood their audience tonight. Many James faces are in the crowd, with this being the first official date of the tour; some fans have travelled hundreds of miles to see James tonight and at this stage, it looked like James were going down the safe route. We needn’t have worried though as the experimental set debuted in Stirling the night before is echoed this evening, although it is not as left field as that set. Lost A Friend, the single that never was from 1997 keeps its place in the set. A welcome return. Jim’s baseline dominates. Like the legendary John Entwistle of The Who, It is as though he is playing lead. It is not familiar though to many of the crowd. In true fashion, there are many people here tonight talking all the way through the gig. Why pay £40 and £4 a pint to stand about and talk all night?
Through no fault of their own, they have lost a little momentum as they try out Interrogation. One of the new songs demoed recently by the band. In truth, if I asked someone in the crowd which of the 2 songs was the new one, I suspect many wouldn’t have known. To get the crowd going again, the band wisely launch into Sit Down. It keeps the punters happy. Another good move. This is followed by the big hit from the Whiplash lp, She’s A Star. However, it has been totally reworked, and features Tim’s vocals, Mark’s piano, and Saul’s violin predominately, with only a little Larry guitar. Wow. A superb arrangement. Beautiful. Of Monsters and Heroes and Men sees the introduction of the Manchester Consort Choir, who were special guests for the evening, and joined the band on 8 of the songs. Sadly, this is the cue for 100s of punters to try to get a drink at the bar. That was their loss.
Tim dedicates Fire So Close to the Barrowlands fans in the audience tonight. Delivered with a real passion from Tim, Mark, Larry and the choir. Up next is Space, from one of my favourite LPs, Pleased To Meet You. Overlooked by many, it was the opening track from the final album (first time round) back in 2001. It is encouraging to see the band revisit some of these songs, especially as a certain band member isn’t keen on that LP or its predecessor Millionaires.
We’re Gonna Miss You from Millionaires gets an airing tonight, and is another song with a new arrangement. Larry plays a more choppy guitar part, which is completely unrecognisable from the recorded version. I prefer the original to be honest but fair play to them for trying something else with it. We’re Gonna Miss You is boosted by the backing vocals of the choir though, who were welcome guests this evening. An inspired choice of guests. Hopefully, they can collaborate with James in the studio at some stage.
The Record Store Day single that never was Moving On is the 2nd of 2 new songs aired tonight. It is easily the best of the new ones, with a catchy chorus and some excellent trumpet from Andy. As far as I know, it has been recorded and mixed. It is set to become another fan favourite.
If you ask any of the James faces about their finest work, many will say the Hey Ma LP from 2008. Tonight we are treated to 2 songs from it. Waterfall is usually always spectacular. On release, I found it incredible that a 25 year old band could produce their best LP. Unfortunately tonight though Waterfall sounds a little tired. Perhaps the band were feeling it. After all, it is 8 months since they last played any gigs. I trust Waterfall will improve as the tour progresses.
Come Home is a triumph though. As I listened it struck me that James never really play it the same way twice. Famously, they never play the same set twice (if you ignore the 1998 Best Of… tour) but it is also true that they don’t really play a number of their songs in the same way either. Extraordinary, considering there are playing to audiences of 1000s. They pull it off though, and that is what makes James so special. Their working methods are completely unorthodox.
The choir once again join for the end of set celebrations, including a trio of big hits. An incredible performance tonight given the circumstances: no new record to promote, 3 years since the last proper album, and their first big gig in nearly a year. Not their best gig ever, but an excellent performance. Ok, so they didn’t play Count Your Blessings or I Defeat (the latter was played in, and adored by the Stirling audience) but they delivered. Curiously, Jimmy picked up his set list at the end of the gig, folded it, and put it in his pocket. I suspect he is going to fine tune it to create the ultimate set for later in the tour. Enjoy.