by Allen James
My review of the exeter gig is maybe a bit of a weird one, because of the events that took place that day. It all started when my friend pulled out of coming due to work,and the fact that I had noone to replace him with.
I finally did persuade a friend to come along and we left Cornwall early so I could hopefully get to meet the band as they arrived from Bristol.
About 2:45pm we arrived in exeter and headed for the venue straight away. Once we got there, I tracked down one of the concert organisers who said the band were due any minute. Sure enough they arrived and we got to meet all the band except Tim, who was asleep on the coach.
I had photos taken with all the lads and they were all very obliging if not knackered from the previous nights celebrations!! I left Tim to sleep on the coach and returned an hour later to find him walking about the venue. After a good chat with him discussing my future appearance on Stars In Their Eyes, I shook his hand and made my way to the ever growing queue outside.
Once inside we watched Shea Segar perform their set, which personally I thought went well for them with one or two songs very catchy.
The atmosphere was building and by 9:15pm everyone was ready to party. Down went the lights and the butterflies inside went berserk. On came James to a great reception and they came in with three new songs. Then the most exciting thing in my life happened as Tim spotted me in the crowd and said “hello” in his yipnotic voice. He then carried on with, “actually there’s a guy at the front here who sounds like me”, the crowd roared and the next thing I knew I was onstage with Tim shouting, “Let’s do Destiny Calling”,
Side by side we sang, and that just made the day for me afterwards we were invited backstage where we mingled with the band and discussed the day and the forthcoming gigs.
I cannot actually let the memory fade as I have not yet let it sink in!!, but I know that all the songs they played such as Coffee and Toast, Senorita, Junkie and all the other new ones sound great and leave you aching for the months to pass before you can annoy the neighbours with another James album. But what I will say is that I won’t let Tim down on Stars in Their Eyes, and I hope he watches and asks me to be his backing singer to do great harmonies together….
The day ended with me crashing my car at 2 oclock in the morning on my way home, after the car in front lost his roofrack. If I had died then I would have died a happy man!!!!!!!
by David Chapple
Security could not have been more laid back at Exeter and were surprisingly pleasant. It was pity then that I did not have a video camera, as it would have been easy to have taken one in. In addition, using my girlfriend’s charm we were able to sit down up stairs with the prefect view (thanks to the security).
I should say that I am very critical and not easily pleased – and that anyone who knew me may say that, I speak the truth, even when I should not. I am also not a keen fan of live music, and never go to gigs, but as my favourite band were playing less than a mile from my home, I made an exception and I was not disappointed.
Shea Segar, the opening act, was a little disappointing, I am sure somewhere in there is a good voice, with good songs but we couldn’t hear a thing, as her sound system was very poor. Why drown out her voice with so much bass? Later on, she sat near me whilst James were playing and seemed to be enjoying herself dancing away.
On to James, do not ask me what they played as I have forgotten, well sort of. I think that other correspondents have covered their set. Their new stuff was to me just as good as their old stuff. James certainly knows how to play live and give it all. Tim’s trance like dancing has to be seen to be believed. All my favourite tracks were covered. Sometimes, Johnny Yen and Laid were just brilliant and if they had just played one track I would have thought the whole event awesome.
A few people on the way out were heard to say they wanted to hear ‘Sit Down’. However, to me although it is the song they are known best for, there was no disappointment in the tracks they played.
I only have one criticism and that is, does it have to be so loud that it hurts, or am I missing the point?
And I am depressed, how can you follow an experience like going to see James Live, the studio CDs seem very flat or I have gone very deaf.
JAMES unveiled at least seven brand new songs at EDINBURGH CORN EXCHANGE last night (23 October) on the third date of their UK tour.
Lead singer Tim Booth told the crowd that most of the tunes – fairly slow, thoughtful numbers – had been written last week and hadn’t even been given titles yet. He explained that more new material would be added every day as the tour progressed.
Tim continued: “I saw Talking Heads play a set which was all new material once and it was one of the best gigs ever… so I hope you enjoy tonight”.
However, two of the new tracks not only had titles – ‘Everyone’s A Junkie’ and ‘Saving Grace’ – but were more uptempo and got the audience moving for the first time.
The packed Edinburgh auditorium had to wait until the sixth song of the gig for the first hit ‘Say Something’, and the ecstatic reaction prompted Booth to joke: “So I suppose the first five songs meant nothing to you?”
Another new track later in the set was so new that Booth had the lyrics dotted around the stage. A ‘best of’ mini-set only appeared towards the end of the gig when ‘Laid’, ‘Born of Frustration’ and ‘She’s A Star’ were aired – ‘Destiny Calling’ had appeared earlier but was halted abruptly when, according to Booth, “someone spilled a beer over the desk”. Yet another new untitled track was premiered during a four-song encore as the band tried out material on their audience.
Booth explained later that although their new studio album wouldn’t be out until April next year, the band had over 30 songs to choose from. Judging by the crowd reaction throughout the show it should have the fans’ seal of approval
It seems that now, after nearly twenty years of stutters, wrong turns, short-lived fame, proposed splits and yet more stutters, James are a band finally displaying harmony, composure and without sounding too much like any cliché, self satisfaction.
But there is also the small matter of having a damn good time along the way which is what this Autumn tour seems to represent. The third leg of which was no different as the band easily sold out the Corn Exchange, Edinburgh to a fanatical crowd of nearly 2000. In true James style though, there had to be a but involved and this came in the form of more than half a dozen new, unreleased and untested songs. This was not going to be the rejoiced Greatest Hits tour that many unsuspecting fans may have expected. Fortunately, the band found the right balance in their set list tonight.
Opening with no fewer than 4 new pieces of material, this seemed audacious and bold to say the least. The highlights of this quartet were undoubtedly We can work it out which instantly stands out with its repetitive “you can work your miracle” line and “Senorita”, a song which singer Tim Booth describes as being “about addiction” which plays very similarly to that of the Millionaires track Surprise.
With the opening tracks dispatched without hitch (before the fans got restless) we were treated to a trio of greatest hits, consisting of obvious crowd favourites such as Say Something, Sometimes and the more than welcome return of the anthemic How was it for you?. The upbeat “pop song” Coffee and toast then came into play and now each song, new or old was being greeted with rapturous enthusiasm from the hall of die-hard fans.
James carried on mixing and matching the new material with old favourites, each one a potential single in spite of Booth¹s claims to them being written only the week before. Such songs included the bouncy First on the tape, much enjoyed by the lively crowd, Gaudi, Scratchcard and The shining. The additions of older tracks Stutter and a marvellous version of Johnny yen into the mix were both memorable too.
The show was finished with another chunk of greatest hits material for the crowd to chew on. These included She¹s a star, Born of Frustration, Laid, Ring the Bells and two takes of Destiny Calling as the speakers gave way and lost interest during the first. Fortuitously, the crowd, myself included, didn¹t lose interest and of course demanded a second take.
When it comes to hearing James Best of material you know the songs will sound terrific and be appreciated by the fans. But what will have pleased the band most about this evenings performance was the response given to the new songs which to a more impatient audience would not have gone down well. Luckily for James this audience were full of energy, vibrant, delightful and naturally so were they.
The hall security was like an airport, metal detectors and loads of searching. The security men were even taking packets of sweets of the Edinburgh punters on their way in!! As a result of these human right infringements, it took ages to get in. By the time most people were in the hall, Exit 52, making their Scottish debut, had been and gone. And so onto Shea Segar. The PA system during her set was terrible, totally booming about all over the place. It was basically unlistenable, and all those rumours I heard about this venue proved to be true.
We managed to find a decent spot to listen to yet another stormer of a set from James, which opened with no fewer than 5 new ones, including Work It All Out (which is not the strongest of openings), The Shining (with lyrics like “I could be the Nazi or I could be the Jew”), and an incredible Coffee and Toast. Coffee and Toast in particular sounds well polished, and it is clear that the band have been working hard, and in only a short time since the last LP, they now have a whole host of songs which can eclipse Millionaires, Whiplash, and even Laid.
The oldies were the same as the previous night in Liverpool, although describing them as oldies does the band a disservice as there’s a freshness to James songs that none of their contemporaries (do they have contemporaries?) can match. Stutter is 20 years old, but still manages to amaze. Tim used to claim that Adrian didn’t know these songs, but if you closed your eyes, you could almost imagine Larry was back up there. Well, almost. How was it for you? has been ignored for a few years now, but it’s back with a vengeance on this tour, and again Adrian’s guitar work is superb. Stutter was preceded by Johnny Yen, and again the band assault your aural tastebuds with a powerful rendition of the stand out track from the first LP.
Stand, Stand, Stand is another new one which doesn’t disappoint, but to be fair, all the new songs were sounding great and the audience responded well to the challenge James presented tonight, as this is the most adventurous set list James have graced a Scottish stage with in the best part of a decade. The concert was briefly halted by a power failure during Destiny, so I was kind of hoping for a wee acoustic slot, but the PA system, as if by magic, came back on again. Destiny was then followed by She’s A Star and Born Of Frustration. Tim tried to get the crowd singing the Born Of Frustration “woo woo woo”s going again, like at the Royal Court the night before, but the crowd didn’t get it. There were loads of calls for that old English folk song, but the band didn’t give in thankfully, and then Top Of The World, Laid, and Ring The Bells followed in the way of an encore.
So, all in all, a spot on gig. The band seem to have virtually ignored Millionaires songs now with only Tim’s favourite track played tonight. I really wasn’t looking forward to another dodgy venue, but the show was as equally as good as the Royal Court, although it lacked a bit of the atmosphere from the night before. Finally, I must mention Scratchcard, a terrible name for a song, but another fantastic song which Mark contributes so much to with his synthesiser. I left the venue with a big happy grin, although loads of punters looked a little bemused. Maybe the set was too much for them. James refresh the parts other bands cannot (and will never) reach. For me, tonight, they did just that.
The Royal Court may look like it needs a lick of paint and a refit, but it is a favourite venue of the band. It’s built for acoustics and it holds fond memories of celebratory gigs from the late eighties.
From the opening bars of Work It All Out, it was evident that this was going to be a very special James performance. The sound was virtually perfect, Geoff Buckley was on peak form with the lights and the crowd was ready to listen to the new songs. Stand, Stand, Stand was a massive success, a song people had never heard before but which they were singing along to by the end. Senorita saw the band ratch up the level still further, Tim dancing freely from one corner of the stage to the other and Saul encouraging the audience as only he knows how.
Say Something got a rapturous reception as Tim introduced it as written when he and Larry were arguing. Tim took the opportunity to improvise over the end section as the crowd pogoed wildly. This continued through Sometimes and the very welcome return of How Was It For You?
True to their earlier promise of new songs, James then romped through Scratchcard and its unerringly catchy “oh Lordy” refrain, Daniel’s Saving Grace and the “scientific love song” Coffee and Toast.
Tim acknowledged Jerry from Seattle who he had met at the book signing who had flown in specially for the gig. Seattle isn’t actually in Canada, Tim……….
The crowd rapturously received the opening bars of Someone’s Got It In For Me which was every little bit as cathartic as the previous night in Leeds. For Johnny Yen, Tim decamped to the speakers stage right to sit and milk the audience’s frenzied reaction to the old favourite.
First On The Tape, described by Saul as “a pop song”, with Saul on violin instead of guitar, started another trio of new songs followed by Gaudi which Tim told the audience deadpan had been written “last Tuesday” followed by the swirling epic The Shining.
As in Leeds, James went back to the trusty Best Of for the finale – Destiny, Star and Frustration. After holding the mic to the crowd for the “woo woo” opening to Frustration, Tim then leapt over the pit (a fifteen feet drop and about ten feet wide) to join his adoring crowd, climbing onto the barrier and dancing, supported only by a few pairs of hands.
For the encore, James began with the ever-beautiful Top of the World with Jim’s bass sending tingles down the spine like never before. A strangely curtailed Laid followed by which time the crowd was a seething mass. Ring The Bells, with an intro sounding uncannily like What’s The World (well it fooled me), wrapped up the show with Tim centre stage in his own dance-driven world as the band wound the sound up faster and faster. And that was that.
This was a truly amazing show that had everything, a set of new songs with an energy and passion that could not fail to win over the crowd, crystal clear sound, a mesmerising light show and James going back to being old-style, old-ethics James brought smash bang into the 21st Century.
No Sit Down? Who needs it when you can Stand Stand Stand?
Having been to James’ Manchester gig last year I was waiting for another chance
to see them live. And I was not disappointed. The James concert at Liverpool was a far cry from the “Celebratory gigs” they were touring with until recently. We were lucky enough to be standing at the front – my first time standing at any indoor concert. The support band I thourghly enjoyed, even though I didn’t know of them – But it was the main attraction I was awaiting. When they came on, I soon found the disadvantage of being at the very front – the crush, but this just heightened the experience for me.
They came on with new songs which took me by surprise, but I picked up he songs fairly well and ended up loving them. Nine of the songs they played were new so we were all in only a slightly better state than my friend who knew Sit Down and nothing else. The new songs were well received by the crowd and when the classics came on the crowd were making the most of them. I could not help but jump around as the crowd surged forward forcing me to do exactly as I wanted to.
However, the concert finished all to soon with some wild music which I have come to love from various recordings I have heard (One Man Clapping and other live performances). Our lift was late (Like one hour late 12:30) which in the end was good, as I managed to speak to Tim Booth (Nobody had pens for an autograph). Congratulating him on the new material, and hearing that he was worried that he might have done too much new stuff and alienated the crowd turned a potential disaster into a wonderful highlight.
So, Fantastic show, Wonderful new material, I cannot wait for their new album and singles to come out!!!
The tour billed as James returning to their roots started at Leeds University Refectory, a truly horrible venue designed for cheap student fare rather than the delicacies James were about to present us with.
Kicking off with a trio of new songs “Work It All Out”, “Stand, Stand, Stand” and “Senorita” made an immediate statement of intent. Out with the singalong Best Of set and the polished sound of Millionaires, this was the rough, raw, risk-taking James playing the songs they’d just knocked out in the studio the week before. Thank God for that!
The sound however was a constant battle through a muddy PA and the horrific acoustics. Say Something and Sometimes brought a more familiar response from the crowd. The former however had not aged too well, but the latter was more evocative and pulsating as ever. Perennial favourite Johnny Yen with Saul’s criminally underused violin brought the usual euphoric response from the audience.
Fred Astaire followed and preceded three more new tracks – Scratchcard, Daniel’s Saving Grace and Coffee And Toast – and provided an interesting contrast between the lush arrangements of Millionaires and the raw energy of the new material. A slightly bemused crowd looked on, contemplated and then danced.
Someone’s Got It In For Me gets more epic, vivid, emotional and simply mind-blowing every time it gets played. The crowd cheered the opening bars and the prolonged applause at the end was no less than the band deserved.
Tim then stopped to remonstrate with a heckler demanding obscure tracks. Jim plucked the opening lines to Scarecrow before Tim admonished the heckler asking him to make sensible requests in future.
Three more new songs followed – First On The Tape, Gaudi and The Shining – a “pop song” reminiscent of second album Inspiral Carpets, an uptempo stomp and a beautiful emotional sweeping masterpiece respectively.
To wrap up the show, James launched into a trio of hits – Destiny, Star and Frustration and the world, or at least the privileged 1,500 of us, went mad again.
Everyone’s A Junkie, another newie, opened the encore before the band went back to romps through Laid and a frenetic Ring The Bells with Tim captivated by a floating balloon as the band played faster and faster and then they were gone.
So no Sit Down, Come Home and Sound but ten new songs – this was old school James taking risks few others would dare to. As Tim bemoaned Leeds United’s youngsters failure to beat the mighty Man United, his other team with youngsters of its own overcame the chronic sound problems and won without its big guns.
WHAT ARE YOU UP TO AT THE MOMENT?
“We’re recording in a studio in Surrey called The House In The Woods – foxes and their cubs come up to it every night to get food! We’ve hit the best patch of our relationship and communication, getting on as musicians, that we’ve ever had. We had Brian Eno in last week and it was intensive – 12 hour days with half-hour lunches. The concentration levels are incredible. He’s the world’s best producer. All the engineers were gobsmacked. We love the challenge of working with him.”
YOU RECENTLY SAID YOU STILL WANT TO CHALLENGE YOUR AUDIENCE – HOW?
“We’re going on this tour we booked ages ago – it’s a brave tour for us. It’s a small tour and it’s not going to be greatest hits. Finally, it’s like we’re doing a tour that will scare us witless! Cos we’re going to be trying out eight or nine new songs. We haven’t played Sit Down this year at all. We’re not going to shoot ourselves in the foot, but we love the new songs. We’re gonna record them as soon as we come off the tour.”
ARE YOU GOING TO INCLUDE YOUR VERSION OF “CHINA GIRL” IN THE SET?
“We’ve been putting together a greatest b-sides compilation and we stuck it on there. I just used to love that song – I must have seen Iggy Pop play it 15 times. I hate Bowie’s version, I think it’s crap. When you hear Iggy’s version and you know it’s probably about his relationship with heroin, it gives it a completely different bite and edge. It’s easy to improve on Bowie’s, but not on Iggy’s version. It didn’t go down that well though, so I don’t know if we’ll do it again.”
ARE YOU STILL PERTURBED ABOUT THE PRESS YOU GET?
“I think we got paranoid in a certain period. I didn’t realise we had so many front covers – now we’re not seen as new, so we don’t get that attention. We’re probably a bit pissed off about that, because we’re still making great music and that should be the criteria. I don’t read reviews now, I haven’t for four or five years – I don’t have an opinion. People have got that attitude ‘Oh, it’s just James’ which is frustrating.
WHAT’S THE SECRET OF YOUR CONTINUING POPULARITY?
“I think people just get the music – the celebratory nature of our concerts is not something many other bands can pull off. We’re perfectionists – we don’t let the crap go out, and we work hard to make sure the stuff is good and get good people to work with. And sometimes we’re paranoid – you just have to forgive us for that! Musicians get like that – they’re tetchy creatures, sensitive souls. It’s not nice when people don’t like you.
Sometimes / She’s a Star / China Girl / Stutter / Out To Get You / Junkie / Someone’s Got It In For Me / Tomorrow / Coffee and Toast / Sound / Ring The Bells
Ted Kessler, NME
Time for a rest. Time for couples to smooch in the golden sunset. Time for James to soothe and caress the heartstrings with more poignancy than you thought them still capable of. They nearly blow it with a cover of Bowie’s “China Girl”, but the abundance of singalong anthems clears the palate nicely for the heavyweights to follow.
Mark Beaumont, Melody Maker
And James are the last cigarette for a condemned rock festival, managing to mash a cover of David Bowie’s “China Girl” and a new song that sounds like The Specials playing “Pac Man” between their intoxicating pop bombast.
James headline several Portuguese festivals, an MTV Five Night Stand concert in London (supported by Coldplay) and become one of the first Western bands to play China.