Julia Fordham *
Julia Fordham *
Monkey God / Shatters / Bone / Down To The Sea / Buried Alive / Monsters / All About Time
review by oneofthethree
Coming on stage fifteen minutes late due a technical problem with Dan’s keyboard sees a few people leave to other stages, but there’s still a very decent crowd in the tent by the time Tim and the band make it to the stage, without Saul for this only festival appearance of the summer. Making light of the delay, Tim picks up a clock that’s left on the stage for the bands to see how long they have left and tells the crowd he only reads digital. The delay means we lose Fall In Love With Me from the set, which would have been an odd choice for a tent slot mid-afternoon at the festival.
However, Monkey God kicks off the set and what’s immediately obvious is that the sound very much fills the tent. Away from the smaller venues of the tour, it’s great to see how this works in a bigger, wider space with a larger crowd. Tim prowls the stage menacingly and ends up dancing facing Dan on the raised platform the keyboards are on. Shatters similarly benefits from the wider spaces and sounds huge with Neil, hair flicking back and forward, dancing as he plays bass. Bone starts with an elongated sax intro from Dan and gets huge cheers when Tim starts to dance. He then climbs back onto Dan’s platform to hold the mic close to the melodica for the instrumental section.
Tim then causes mass panic amongst Nigel and the security guards by jumping off stage as Dan sings the high note at the start of Down To The Sea. Not content with going to the barrier, he climbs over the barrier, narrowly avoiding falling on his face (again), and walks through the crowd singing, gaining a fetching straw hat on the way through. It wins the doubters in the crowd over. As he finishes and climbs back over, he realises he can’t get back on stage without going all the way round the back.
To finish the set, we get a trio of tracks from Love Life that demonstrate firstly the quality of the record, and secondly the quality of the band. Shorn of the violin in the intro, Buried Alive doesn’t lose anything as a result, the backing vocals over the chorus soaring and lifting the song as it reaches an extended improvised outro which starts with Dan on keys and Lee with some subtle guitar, but which explodes into noise when Rob kicks the drums back in. Monsters is loud and bold, the audience clapping along to the menacing beat, a song that needs a bigger audience than it’s been granted so far. Before closer All About Time, Tim picks up the now broken clock and says that can play on forever as it’s broken. He takes time out to take the mickey of Lee’s tiny amplifier. All About Time is a great set closer though, the stream of lyrics always on the edge of breakdown at breakneck speed into the poppier singalong chorus. It finishes with an improvised outro and there’s a great response from the crowd as it ends.
All in all, a great festival set without taking the easy option of throwing in a James song for the masses. The band seem to be still growing together and are more confident in their sound, despite the glitches that caused the delay. It’s a real shame and worry that there’s nothing announced on the horizon. It would be a shameful waste if this album and this band had said their goodbyes at Hop Farm.
Secret post-gig set in an old disused church.
Gloria Descends / Fall In Love / Down To The Sea / The Point Of Darkness
As Far As I Can See / Wave Hello / Monkey God / Bless Them All / Consequences / Dance Of The Bad Angels / Gloria Descends / Old Ways / Hit Parade / Down To The Sea / Bone / Butterfly’s Dream / Shatters / Monsters / All About Time / Fall In Love With Me / Buried Alive / The Point Of Darkness / What’s The World
As Far As I Can See / Wave Hello / Monkey God / Bless Them All / Consequences / Dance Of The Bad Angels / Gloria Descends / Hit Parade / Butterfly’s Dream / Down To The Sea / Bone / Shatters / Monsters / All About Time / Fall In Love With Me / Buried Alive / The Point Of Darkness
As Far As I Can See / Wave Hello / Monkey God / Bless Them All / Consequences / Dance Of The Bad Angel / Gloria Descends / Hit Parade / Old Ways / Down To The Sea / Bone / Shatters / Monsters / All About Time / Fall In Love With Me / Buried Alive / The Point Of Darkness / What’s The World
review by oneofthethree
It’s another disappointing turnout for the gig in Sheffield tonight – frustrating in the sense that this is great music and there’s a connection being made between the band and the crowds that are there, but then there’s almost a real sense of back to basics, that this is a delicious secret that’s being shared by a few but which deserves a wider audience. James played gigs like this for years and it didn’t serve them in bad stead. The sad dynamic of the present music industry and the economic climate is that the big gigs, the “experiences” of Kylie, Lady Ga Ga, U2, Muse, will still sell and for silly prices and even old-stagers like James can trade on their reputation for being a great live band by still being a great live band and with new material that whilst not as singalong as the hits from the nineties still stands the acid quality test. Tim’s situation is different – he has a great record, a great band, but are people going to go out and spend £20 a ticket, plus drinks, food and transport, for something that’s not as familiar to them, that isn’t pumped via Hit FM into their houses, when they’re struggling with rising living costs, fear for their jobs and general uncertainty? The answer would seem to be no. You can’t reduce ticket prices too far, because these tours, even operating on basics, still cost money to put together and there’s little left to actually promote the gigs other than word of mouth and the internet. There’s no lavish SJM glossy video, front page on Seetickets website, newspaper adverts to promote Tim in the way James had for their last tour.
In a way, and it won’t console Tim’s bank manager, this has a positive impact at the shows in the way the audience react to the songs. Most of the people at the shows will have sought out details, had to make an effort to get there past clicking on a link on a mailing list. Looking at the people singing along, there’s a large proportion of them, Fall In Love With Me is respected because people get it and know they need to shut up. Double or triple the audience size and you’d get heckling, unrest that there’s one James song tonight, right at the end and it’s a 28 year old single on Factory. On the way out, two guys were talking, one a James fan who’d brought his mate along, and was apologising for the gig being “shit” as there were no James songs and his mate, who’d never seen James and clutching a special edition, cutting him down by telling him something along the lines that he thought he liked music and how could he not have enjoyed that show.
Anyway I digress. The Leadmill has an odd sound set up, the main speakers in the ceiling but then some huge bass speakers either side of the stage that seriously boom out. Stand near them and you can feel the floor vibrate for most of the show. It does have a nice high stage though which gives everyone a great view and allows Chris to work his magic with the simple, but very cleverly executed light show.
The gig starts with Tim coming through the audience with the rest of the band singing As Far As I Can See. There’s a comedy moment when a guy in a pink shirt is given the mic by Tim to whistle and can’t manage to get anything out. Everyone laughs. Tim smiles and gives him another go and he cracks it this time which gets him a cheer from the crowd. They then work their way to the stage, Tim stopping to sing to and with other people in the crowd. At the end of the song Tim tells a story of how Patti Smith once chastised an audience at a far from sold out gig for not bringing their friends and says we would consider ourselves ticked off.
Wave Hello and Monkey God start to rock out, the latter having a change of lyrics in one of the verses which works really well. Tim tells a story about the royal wedding and his visit to his mum in the old folks home as some technical stuff is being sorted out. Bless Them All starts soft and slow before exploding into a chorus and an ending with the audience being invited to sing-along into the microphone as the band add harmonies to Tim. Consequences is dark and brooding and gets a great response from the audience.
Another comical moment ensues at the start of Dance Of The Bad Angel when Tim sings the first line and waits for quiet and then realises the noise is the venue air-conditioning, so carries on. It’s the one song that suffers most from the slightly overpowering bass. No such worries with Gloria Descends, which ends with some absolutely beautiful vocals with Tim, Lee and Neil singing “descends descends” in turn.
As in Wrexham, the band introduce another Booth and the Bad Angel song that they’ve learnt on the tour. Tonight it’s Hit Parade, which was played about seven times in the soundcheck earlier as they were trying to get it right. It’s punchy and upbeat and leads the way into Old Ways, which is again a highlight of the set, Dan jumping on his stool, Neil rocking out and his hair flying everywhere and Tim pointing and smiling at an enthusiastic dancer in the crowd. It also has a beautiful breakdown section in the middle with Dan’s keys.
After Down To The Sea, Tim asks if anyone has any questions as no-one had at the VIP soundcheck – I’m not sure however he was expecting the favourite dinosaur question. I didn’t catch his answer if anyone was wondering, although Lee suggests Larry out of James as his answer.
Bone and Shatters have become staples in the latter part of the set, and with good reasons. Bone is long and languid and showcases the skills of the band, whilst Shatters has an anthemic quality, particularly in the live environment.
Monsters again proves to be a highlight, dark, weird and shouty, Tim having earlier said he’d developed from what Brian Eno had called a “crooner” into being able to be a “shouter” as well. All About Time, introduced as about addictive culture, is as wild as ever – it’s surprising Tim can sing the lyrics at the speed he does and get them all right. No notes needed. The band take over and jam the song to its end with Tim using the large stage to lose himself in dance.
Fall In Love With Me starts the encore and is beautifully observed by all, except the air-conditioning. There’s some sound issues during Buried Alive, where it cuts out a bit before there’s a quick fix mid-song. The Point Of Darkness ends with five of the band, not Saul for some reason, stood together singing accapella and then the audience join in. It’s a surprise success live and is a great set-closer.
They do however then respond to calls to come back for a second time and we’re treated to a very short run through What’s The World. It’s funny that until it’s played, I hadn’t realised there wasn’t a James track in the set. It didn’t matter and whilst both Suffering and Falling Down have sounded great and been given a new life by how they’ve been played.
It just still feels wrong that there weren’t more people there to see and experience this.
Dance Of The Bad Angel / Do Yourself A Favour / Bless Them All / Consequences / Wave Hello / Monkey God / What’s The World / Redneck / Gloria Descends / Down To The Sea / Bone / Monsters / Shatters / Falling Down / All About Time / Fall In Love With Me / Buried Alive / The Point Of Darkness
review by oneofthethree
This was always going to be one of the more interesting gigs on the tour. Firstly it was all seated and secondly the venue holds around 900 people, close to the capacities at the sold-out Manchester and Glasgow shows combined, so it was always going to be a challenge to sell enough tickets to make the hall look full. In the end, just over 200 people made it to the show, a mixture of ages, from families with very young children to more senior couples. There were a few in the bar singing along to Sometimes, which made you worry how they were going to react to a set that, a 1983 single and an album track aside, had no James songs at all in it.
The set as a result was going to be different, and so it proved to be, not even playing the “single” As Far As I Can See and dropping You Can’t Tell How Much Suffering and Old Ways, which were two of the mainstays and highlights of the set and playing a quieter set that demanded the audience listen, although there were still moments where the band let themselves go and hammered out the faster songs.
Dance Of The Bad Angel opened the set and the additional space on the large stage meant Tim had more room to dance than he had on previous nights and also allowed the lights to have much more of an effect than on the cramped stages of the previous dates. Do Yourself A Favour made its’ first appearance of the tour and started subdued until the drums kicked in, Tim came off the stage and made a grab for the camera of a man filming in the aisle and then proceeded to dance with him.
The one thing about the show that surprised me was that apart from a group of people at the back, there was no real standing up at all until All About Time, which meant there was some dissipation of the energy coming off the stage on some of the faster songs, although there was a lot of clapping along at points, but more attention to the slower songs. It was great to see small pockets getting excited at What’s The World being played (and Dan taking a run up to jump onto his stool and then off again to play his keys), which Tim introduced as the first song he ever wrote, and also to hear the first appearance of Redneck, which had gone through quite a lot of work in the soundcheck after they had decided on the bus to try it out.
Down To The Sea saw Tim go out into the crowd again, and ending the song on his knees singing to a very young girl in the front row. It was an extremely touching moment and fully in keeping with how this tour has seen a much more intimate connection with the crowds than the bigger James shows – James have never, as far as I’m aware, been to Wrexham or Kendal, so this is a unique opportunity for people to see Tim in places he hasn’t been before.
There’s a lot of good natured jesting on stage, and at the end between band and crowd, with Saul making a topical joke about calling someone “dear” and then telling the crowd they might not get it now they have their own parliament. It’s taken the way it’s meant.
Despite the plethora of empty seats, this was still a great show, the crowd listening and getting more involved as the show went on. There’s something seriously wrong with the music industry if there’s not a place for shows like this pulling in hundreds of people. It’s testament to the quality of the songs on Love Life and Bone that they triumph through, and 200 Wrexham fans go home happy.
As Far As I Can See / Wave Hello / What’s The World / Monkey God / Bless Them All / Consequences / Dance Of The Bad Angel / 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 / The Point Of Darkness / Buried Alive
review by oneofthethree
An interesting evening as ever in Leeds. A full house, Tim having to tell people to stop yelling through every song, a fight and another performance by the band that’s getting stronger and stronger with every show. It starts with Tim coming through the audience with the band for As Far As I Can See and it’s great to see people singing along – the crowds on this tour haven’t been huge, but they’ve been knowledgeable about what’s being played and have been willing to listen. Leeds were great in that respect as well, despite the girl screaming through the first few songs – “come on Tim” every few minutes and “oggy oggy oggy” – who Unkle Bob had warned Tim about.
Despite reservations at the soundcheck, the sound in the venue is excellent once it’s full of people and the fact that it’s in a railway arch makes it very intimate – that extending to the stage which struggles to fit all six of the band on it without them being hidden behind speaker stacks.. Wave Hello is more effervescent and fresh than it’s ever sounded and the crowd, very up for it for a Wednesday night, go wild. What’s The World has as much energy and vibrancy as I’ve ever heard it being played. Tim has to tell people to get off the stairs at the front of the stage. Monkey God maintains the pace of the set and the band rescue it mid-song when it threatens to go wrong.
The set slows down with a beautiful yearning version of Bless Them All and a slighting menacing Consequences, demonstrating that the band can do subtle as well as rocking out. Tim’s voice is sounding as good as it has done for a long time. Tim has, like those around him, had enough of the girl screaming out during the songs and stops Dance Of The Bad Angel to ask her to stop or move away as “this is different to James”. He handles it very well and the girl, to be fair to her, does seem to comply. The song starts again and is delivered beautifully, building into a crescendo of guitar and violin at the end.
Gloria is introduced as a story about a friend who took Tim moonlight surfing and again is a demonstration of the fragility and beauty that can be created by music – Lee and Dan’s backing vocals at the end are jaw-dropping. It’s then the rockier side coming back for the remainder of the main set. Old Ways was recorded with Angelo Badalamenti and Bernard Butler, but it has a new lease of life on this tour and has been a definite stand-out track.
Saul gets heckled before the start of Suffering, but can’t tell what the heckle is, which leads to a comic moment where Tim introduces him as Fred Davies, Saul’s better looking and more talented twin, before Lee calls him Richard Hammond. Saul gets his own back by describing Lee as George Samaras, the Celtic striker, Tim then gets called Ming the Merciless, which he turns round to Ming The Effeminate. Into Suffering and again you wonder how many people recognise it as a James song. Not that it matters, it fits in with the mood and tempo of the rest of the set perfectly.
Tim goes out into the crowd for Down To The Sea, a brave move given that there’s been a fight and blood spilt out there already, but he’s mobbed by people as he stands in the middle of the crowd singing. Bone starts with what can best described as a sax solo from Dan and benefits from the great sound in the venue. Shatters fills the hall with sax and guitar and seems to have an harder edge to it than some of the previous nights.
Falling Down is full-on wig-out. Dan gives Tim a run for this money in the visual stakes as he jumps and hops and hammers his keyboards and Monsters follows suit, the ending of most of the band shouting “there’s monsters coming to get you” the sort of thing that could scare children. Tim forgets the opening lines to All About Time, so we get the treat of an extended intro jam, which is then followed by an extended outro jam as they pull the song out and take it in new directions, stopping and starting it again and you can hear the crowd singing back the chorus with some gusto.
Fall In Love With Me, as with most shows, is very well respected and people keep quiet and listen, whilst The Point Of Darkness doesn’t quite reach the heights it has done on previous nights, but Buried Alive seals the deal for the evening, manic violin from Saul stealing the show as the song spirals to its conclusion.
Another great show, not spoilt too much by the screaming woman and the fight for most people hopefully. It was good to see the venue full and people dancing and singing along as well. This show and set needs to be seen by more people and in bigger venues, people need to get past the “it’s not James” line as well – of course it’s not James, that doesn’t mean it’s not going to be good, it’s different, and in lots of good, exciting ways if you take a chance and go with it. Tim Booth solo is in addition to James, not instead of. Catch one of the remaining shows if you can and prepare to be treated.
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.