A limited production live album on available at tour venues that was released 14 years ago.
Oh My Heart / Born of Frustration / Upside / Tomorrow / Bubbles / Hey Ma / Senorita / Waterfall / Boom Boom / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Whiteboy / Sometimes / Laid / Lullaby
|Release Name:||Live In 2008|
|Release Date:||7 December 2008|
This live album was produced by the band and mixed by Lee ‘Muddy’ Baker, taken from recordings of the shows on the April 2008 UK tour. The album is limited to 5,000 copies and only available at the merchandise desk on the UK December 2008 tour.
Not found on Spotify.
- Isle Of Wight Festival – 13th June 2015
- BBC Maida Vale Studios – 10th October 2014
- T In The Park – 12th July 2014
- Portland Kink Lounge – 8th October 2010
- 2007 – 2009: The Boys Are Back
- San Diego 94.9 – 3rd October 2008
- The Jonathan Ross Show (Hey Ma) – 27th June 2008
- KCRW Santa Monica – 6th June 2008
- Later With Jools – 29th April 2008
- Radio Aryla Session – April 2008
- Benicassim Festival – 3rd August 2001
- Top Of The Pops (Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)) – July 2001
- CD UK (Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)) – July 2001
- VH1 Ray Cokes Show – July 2001
- Later With Jools – 18th May 2001
- Chelmsford V Festival – 23rd August 1998
- MTV Up For It – March 1998
- TFI Friday (Tomorrow) – April 1997
- MTV 120 Minutes – 16th January 1994
- Laid (Conan O’Brien Show) – January 1994
- Jay Leno Show (Sometimes) – October 1993
- London Astoria – 28th September 1993
- Top Of The Pops (Sometimes) – September 1993
- The Beat (Sometimes) – August 1993
- Warrington Parr Hall (evening) – 20th December 1991
- Warrington Parr Hall (afternoon) – 20th December 1991
- London Tufnell Park Dome – 12th June 1991
- Aberdeen AECC – 25th April 2008
- Edinburgh Corn Exchange – 24th April 2008
- Blackpool Empress Ballroom – 22nd April 2008
- Bristol Colston Hall – 21st April 2008
- Oxford New Theatre – 19th April 2008
- Norwich UEA – 18th April 2008
- London Shepherd’s Bush Empire – 17th April 2008
- Sheffield Academy – 15th April 2008
- Newcastle Academy – 14th April 2008
- Liverpool University – 12th April 2008
- Lincoln Engine Shed – 11th April 2008
- Derby Assembly Rooms – 10th April 2008
- Bradford St George’s Hall – 8th April 2008
SetlistTop Of The World / Born Of Frustration / Senorita / Oh My Heart / Boom Boom / Ring The Bells / Waterfall / Bubbles / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / 72 / I Wanna Go Home / Out To Get You / Upside / Whiteboy / She's A Star / Sound / Tomorrow / Come Home / Hey Ma / Sometimes / Laid
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So, the last night of the tour. It’s a bit of a schlepp from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and the venue is right on the north end of the city, meaning a frustrating trip round the most pointless ring road in the UK which meant I was late for the interview with Tim I’d scheduled (coming soon somewhere). The venue looked pretty uninspiring like a massive aircraft hanger and later, as we approached in the rain, it looked as if this could be trouble, lots of people seemingly worse for wear and chanting some of the hits rather badly and wrongly. But how wrong Aberdeen was to prove me to be.
The venue was still an aircraft hanger, but the sound was absolutely superb, probably the best on the tour so far. The extra space in the hall allowed the full effect of the lights to be seen and they were simply astonishing from start to finish. There’s a section of Bubbles, just after when the song moves up in pace, where it’s bathed in yellow, red and green light that is almost idyllic. Strobes and bright white light punctuate the set, but they’re not overused. And the crowd? Well, a few flying pints and the odd crafty cigarette apart, they’re great, they dance, they singalong and they don’t talk through the new songs and there’s not a million mobile phones in the air at every opportunity.
For the last night, the set is mixed up a bit. Top Of The World takes over use of the mirrorball duties from Of Monsters And Heroes And Men, which had suffered most from revelations that would save the world and discussions about dinner and Hollyoaks that suddenly struck people in the middle of the song the previous night. It’s eerie in the big hall, but stuns the crowd into silence. Born Of Frustration though has the crowd up singing, dancing, hollering and the atmosphere is fantastic. Tim asks the crowd to stop throwing beer on stage as it could stop his dancing and damage the electrics, before introducing a “most requested obscure song”. It’s not Island Swing, Folklore or Withdrawn, but Pleased To Meet You stalwart Senorita. Tonight, it sounds just like the single I thought it should have been at the time.
Oh My Heart and Boom Boom just grow in the bigger arena. There’s pockets of dancing around the arena, hands being punched in the air and those that aren’t are listening, cheering at the end of the songs and giving the band the attention and respect they deserve. People actually start dancing as well.
Ring The Bells is absolutely massive. Tim’s dancing is as free and frenetic as it’s been on the whole tour. He comments how the crowd has turned a soulless shed into something throbbing with life and more beautiful.
Waterfall and Bubbles get the same respect from the crowd. Both, as with all the Hey Ma material tonight, sound as vital to James as anything in their back catalogue. It’ll be sad to see some of these fall by the wayside in the winter for the more hit-laden arena shows, but there will be very difficult decisions to be made on which ones stay and which ones go. Getting Away With It is greeted with cheers and mass arm-waving and becomes a communal singalong.
72 returns to the set for tonight, having been dropped earlier in the tour. The lights accompanying it are stunning and it sounds great, but doesn’t quite reach the heights of most of the other Hey Ma material. It was certainly good to hear it again though.
I Wanna Go Home, yet again, was simply mindblowing. It risks encouraging people to lose interest and talk with its quiet opening, but the minute Dave’s drums kick in, people are hooked. The vocal interplay between Tim and Andy works perfectly and then the band demonstrate why they have no peers at songs like these as Tim stalks the stage, pausing to scream the title into the microphone as the lights flash behind him. Stunning stuff.
Out To Get You gets as big a cheer as anything else tonight. There’s a wonderfully touching moment when Tim sings inches from Saul’s face. The crowd holler back the “is you” backing vocals and a thousand pairs of arms are held aloft. Not bad for a b-side to a number 38 single that nearly got lost.
Upside gets punctuated by Tim holding the crowd before the last chorus to try and get the venue silent. This has worked well on previous nights, but didn’t tonight, and the song, which was sounding superb up to this point, kind of gets lost, before the band kick back in and it soars again at the end.
Whiteboy is a mad mad three minutes of fun, leading into the final section of the set. Tim ventures out close to the crowd for She’s A Star, which sounds as uplifting and revelatory as it ever has done. Sound is so good it gets difficult to keep describing it each and every night so I won’t try for the thirteenth time. Tomorrow is a perfect set-closer, the crowd are eating out of the band’s hands by this point, dancing, singing along and generally having the best time Aberdeen has had since Fergie lead them to break the Old Firm monopoly. There’s a comedy moment where the sound cuts out temporarily and Tim turns to the crowd and makes a face.
The encore starts with a rough, ramshackle version of Come Home. The longer in the tour it’s got, the more close to collapse it sounds, and the better it sounds. Hey Ma, inspired by the Black Watch theatre show as Tim tells us, follows the trend of being a dark celebration and the lights just add to the contradiction between subject matter and the song.
Sometimes is amusing. The crowd sing along, but don’t quite catch taking over the refrain as has happened on previous nights. To their credit, the band don’t try to push it, but start up Laid, which brings the night, and the tour, to a rather triumphant close. I’ve told people I’d be happy not to hear Laid again live, but tonight it just made perfect sense as three thousand people dance, sing and try to recreate Tim’s falsetto in union.
A great close to a wonderful tour. The Aberdeen crowd was possibly the best on the tour so far, and the performance also one of the strongest. A soulless venue was transformed into something magical for a couple of hours. It feels a bit empty this morning with the knowledge that we won’t be able to do all this again for seven months.
SetlistCome Home / Waltzing Along / Oh My Heart / Boom Boom / Ring The Bells / Waterfall / Bubbles / Born Of Frustration / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / I Wanna Go Home / Out To Get You / Upside / Whiteboy / She's A Star / Sound / Tomorrow / Top Of The World / Hey Ma / Sometimes / Laid
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The Edinburgh Corn Exchange is a dreadful venue. It’s my second visit, the first being last year’s triumphant festival gig, and the magnificence of that show was put into perspective by tonight’s events. The band didn’t play badly, quite the contrary, it was as polished and as fierce a performance as on the tour, but the shape of the venue with it’s lower ceilings at either side and a sound set up that would disgrace small “toilet” venues took a lot of the edges off the overall impact. The hits managed to survive this through sheer force of recognition from the crowd and the closing duo of Sometimes and Laid were up there with any moment on the tour so far as the whole crowd moved in one mass. However, the sound in the venue and the unwillingness or inability of large sections of the crowd around the fringes to shut up and listen to the new songs was grating. Why pay £35 to go and watch a gig and then just talk all the way through half of the set?
Come Home is opened by a bagpipe player on the balcony as the band come on stage. It’s a more direct opening than recent shows and the crowd respond in kind. The bagpipes I thought were unnecessary and possibly a little bit patronising, but the response probably tells me I’m in a minority on that one. Waltzing Along segues in wonderfully and Tim is matched word for word by the crowd.
Oh My Heart and Boom Boom follow, and whilst sounding huge, the subtleties of Andy singing into the trumpet and Saul’s strings seem to be lost in the sound. Ring The Bells suffers no such problems though, again being sang back by most of the room as it builds and builds to its spectacular climax.
Waterfall and, in particular, Bubbles are not helped by the awful sound that muddy together some of the stunning instrumentation that these songs have characterised over the rest of the tour. They’re not helped by the chattering masses. A very good friend of mine observed that Scottish audiences in general (so please don’t take this to mean YOU personally reader) have always tended to be an album behind on James tours and his point would seem to be proved out tonight.
Born Of Frustration changes the mood back though, the crowd starting to sing before Tim comes in. It doesn’t last long though as the chatterers are back for Of Monsters And Heroes And Men which from half way back in the venue gets ruined by it. I Wanna Go Home is strong enough to overcome it, Tim’s dancing stopping people in mid-sentence. Out To Get You similarly survives. Upside still sounds as vital as ever despite some of the indifference around me and the edge being taken off such delicate moments as Mark and Saul’s opening keys and guitar.
Whiteboy is a riot, you can’t fail to love the swinging lights, the “ah ah ah ah ah ah ah” and Tim smacking ten bells out of the cowbell. The closing trio of She’s A Star, Sound and Tomorrow are absolutely massive, there’s very little chatter going on and the deficiencies in the sound are obliterated by 2000 Scots. Sound takes a whole set of new twists, Tomorrow is sung back so loud it almost drowns out Tim.
The encore starts with a surprise as Tim appears at the back of the arena on the balcony next to a very static and expressionless Billy Sloan (Clyde 1 DJ). The cameraphones come out and rather than listening people around me talking about the quality of the pictures they’ve got. They ignore Tim’s pointing towards the stage when Saul plays his violin solo which is a real shame. Hey Ma starts with bagpipes and is accompanied by a drummer on stage throighout.
Then it’s down to Sometimes. No need to encourage the crowd to sing along, it’s the most spontaneous joining in with the refrain of the tour so far, and the loudest. Tim and Larry dance on stage as the crowd take over the song completely. The band respond by kicking into Laid and win over all the doubters and chatterers and send them home happy.
For me, although it was still a good gig, this was the least enjoyable of the tour so far. The sound did the band no favours and they battled valiantly against it and the constant chattering during the less recognisble numbers. The quality of the performance however shone throughout and the smiles on people’s faces as the lights went back up showed that James have no peers in the live arena even with a set full of new songs that the majority of the audience seemingly didn’t recognise.
SetlistUpside / Born Of Frustration / Waltzing Along / Oh My Heart / Boom Boom / Ring The Bells / Hey Ma / Bubbles / Come Home / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / I Wanna Go Home / Out To Get You / Waterfall, She's A Star / Sound / Tomorrow / Say Something / Whiteboy / Sometimes
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“Hello Manchester” says Saul as he strides on stage at the start of the show. There’s a massive roar of approval from sections of the 3,500 capacity crowd, which indicates the M55 has been pretty busy all evening. But it’s not just a Manchester away gig, there’s people here from all over the North West and further afield. There’s a buzz and anticipation about the gig in the minutes post My Federation that’s stronger than anything on the tour so far (it is the biggest gig and there’s not really any seating which helps explain it).
Upside is pulled forward from the encore to open the set and works well there. It’s the most familiar of the new songs given it’s appearances last year and it’s upbeat enough for those intending to dance (or mosh) to whatever gets played. There’s no stopping and waiting for silence before the last chorus tonight. At the end Tim notes the crowd age range seems to be from 12 to 70, quite an astonishing fact, but one that makes for an interesting mix of young children watching their first gig, their protective parents and grandparents and beered up fans wanting to mosh away like it’s 1990 all over again. Hilariously, I get told off for singing along to Upside (although I don’t sing ever, just mime, as I wouldn’t inflict my singing on anyone) yet the guy then continues to provide the most tuneless off-key wrong-lyriced Born Of Frustration I’ve ever heard. So I move. Frustration is huge, Andy’s trumpet fills the hall and rows and rows of people holler back at Tim. Waltzing Along meets a similarly delirious response.
Back to the new songs Oh My Heart and Boom Boom see pockets of the crowd continue to jump up and down, singing along, whilst other groups look disinterestedly on. The performance is fierce, as if the band are determined to make people stand up, shut up and listen. Ring The Bells, obviously, has the crowd back to the seething mass. Someone next to me gets punched rather randomly and it looks like it’s going to kick off before one of the groups moves away. It’s distracting from what’s happening on stage, which is fast, frenetic and sounds stunning, backed with an array of flashing, strobing lights which build with the song.
Hey Ma becomes a singalong. Of course it’s bizarre hearing the chorus being sung back with such gusto, but there’s a passion in it that’s undeniable. The song itself gets stronger each night, the build to the last chorus seems to get longer, more exciting and adding to the simple message of that chorus. Wonderful stuff.
I’ve moved to the side by this point to avoid any more of the some of the shenanigans in the middle, getting told off by one gentleman for moving out of the crowd past his group. Bubbles is beautiful, probably the highlight of the set for me. It encapsulates everything about the spirit and passion of James and a sign of how lyrically Tim has moved on from singing sad, confused, deeply personal and quite ferocious lyrics to something more joyful, exciting and voracious without losing any of the passion and the connection that he creates with his audience.
Come Home gets probably the biggest cheer of the night, and is accompanied by what looks like sparklers coming out of Andy’s trumpet (I’m over the other side of the stage so can’t work out exactly what it was). The moshpit goes further back into the venue, people sing along at the tops of their voices and it feels like it’s Madchester 1990 all over again.
The grandeur of the ballroom is made for Of Monsters And Heroes And Men. Lights shine down from the ceiling onto the mirrorball and illuminate the whole room. Vocally, it sounds absolutely stunning and Andy’s trumpet kicks in and lifts the song through to its conclusion. I Wanna Go Home just continues to get better and better each night, the new lighting guy is getting more in tune with what’s going on in front of him and the lights match the frenzy and crescendo that’s been played out on stage. Blackpool is mesmerised.
Out To Get You brings massive cheers of recognition and is sung back with a gusto traditionally reserved for the big hits. Waterfall follows, and is announced by Tim as the next single. It stills seems a bit odd shorn of the second verse, but it sounds wonderful, the “one drop…” to “dive” section simply stunning.
The set closes with the usual trio of hits, She’s A Star gets a massive reception and, for me, still sounds huge. Sound goes off on another series of twists and turns, the crowd hollering back the “mah bah oo” section to Tim as the improvisation kicks in at the end of the song. Tomorrow is the perfect set-ender, fast, fierce, frenetic and unmistakeably James.
The encore starts with Say Something and Tim comes down onto the barrier to sing. Tonight, it sounds a little flatter than it has on previous nights and I’m still on the fence about this song in the current set. But then everyone else seems to love it, so I’ll move on. Whiteboy sees the swinging lights come out and, as ever, it’s a fun, fast, frenetic and joyful mess. Perfect.
Sometimes seals the victory, the crowd are already singing along from the first line so there’s no real need for prompting them to come back in at the end. The singing is as loud and prolonged as anywhere else on the tour and it’s a fitting way to bring the set to a close.
In summary, a bit of an odd one. A great performance by the band, a crowd that was really up for it, but some odd things went on during the set in the crowd. I guess it’s often down to luck and where you stand and who’s around you, but it did detract a little from what was a triumphant sort of homecoming for the band to one of the venues where they made that critical break in 1990 from underground indie act to one of the most loved and respected bands in the country.
Manchester Evening News Review
MANCUNIANS unable to wait for James’ December date at the huge Manchester Central descend on Blackpool for their gig at the iconic, and more initimate, Empress Ballroom.
Openers My Federation get the night off to a decent start.
An ‘art-rock’ band, based in Brighton, frontman Lee Muddy Baker, who worked with Tim Booth on his solo project Bone and also helped to produce James’ latest offering, manages to strike up some decent repartee with the audience.
The group have known some success to date, particularly with their debut single Honey Bee, and are gigging after the release of their Don’t Wanna Die album.
They certainly get the crowd going with some catchy riffs, interesting harmonies and fun song structures.
But they really are trying to fit too much into a half-hour support slot. While some bands can pull off ‘eclectic’, trying to mix Rage Against The Machine-inspired riffs with Belle and Sebastian-like melodies and a Spinal Tap-esque stage presence really doesn’t work.
The band have many merits, but would do well to streamline their influences. And there was no excuse for that choreographed headbanging end to the final song.
But the audience, which largely consists of 35-year-old men, whose beer bellies tended to have grown since they saw James back in the day, are here only for the main attraction.
Last time I saw James they paraded onto the stage at the M.E.N. Arena to anthemic favourite Come Home, complete with standard bearers and a near-enough full brass band.
In Blackpool, though the stage is smaller, Tim Booth’s vocals and the unmistakable sound of Jim Glennie’s bass and Dave Baynton-Power’s drums, not to mention a solo trumpeter, revive the stadium-feel, which was what most of the crowd were looking for.
Unlike the arena date, the band’s main aim on this tour is to promote their new album, Hey Ma, released early this month, and they do so, albeit tentatively.
Formidable front man Booth tells us: “I hope you’ve all bought the new album, and that you have taken it into your hearts”.
Well, most of them had – kind of.
The band, with some exceptions, seemed to arrange their setlist according to a ‘new song’ followed by ‘old song’ system, just in case the crowd got bored of the new stuff and became impatient of waiting for one of the old sing-along crowd-pleasers.
And although there were some highlights among the new album, such as the yearning Oh My Heart and the catchy single Whiteboy, old favourites such as Waltzing Along, Come Home and Out To Get You are far better received.
Perhaps this is inevitable with such a new album.
The band played the new songs with as much passion and intent as they have ever shown in previous years, and seeing as this is the fruit of the line-up being back in the studio together properly for the first time in six years, perhaps they deserve a bit of leeway.
The audience go home happy, but there is a definite feeling that James are a brilliant band that wrote their best songs many years ago.
To hear them again is fantastic and fills the audience with nostalgia, but James’ future musical career is yet to be proven.
Walking around Blackpool town centre prior to James’ concert was like travelling back to 1991, indie kids wearing the band’s at one time ubiquitous t-shirts were everywhere.
Getting the night of to an excellent start at the Empress Ballroom were My Federation, whose singer Lee Muddy Baker collaborated with James front man Tim Booth recently.
The band, who, earlier this year released their debut Don’t Wanna Die album, deliver a technically tight set with an air of fun and self deprecation, with Baker instantly connecting with the crowd.
Their music is guitar driven heavy riffs, which contrast well with Baker’s more delicate delivery and some delightful 60s style harmonies.
As James take to the stage the mood of the crowd changes to one of utter devotion and with a fan base so fervent, the gig becomes a 90 minute celebration.
The band, driven by Dave Baynton-Power’s intricate and enveloping drum sound and complete with trumpeter, obviously have the sound for huge festivals and so to see them in more intimate surroundings is pleasing.
James, who released their new album Hey Ma earlier in April, mingle the new songs such as single Whiteboy among some highlights of their back catalogue including Waltzing Along and Come Home.
Mercifully, however, there is no rendition of the nursery rhyme ditty the band is most famous for, the multiple hit single Sit Down.
Booth effortlessly leads his congregation through the mass singalong and seems genuinely humbled by the goodwill and fervour directed towards the band.
The new material blends in well with the old and on the back of multiple festival appearances this summer, who is to say James’ career won’t march on into a fourth decade.
SetlistOut To Get You / Born Of Frustration / Oh My Heart / Boom Boom / Ring The Bells / Hey Ma / Bubbles / Come Home / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / I Wanna Go Home / Johnny Yen / Waterfall / Whiteboy / She's A Star / Sound / Tomorrow / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) Upside / Sometimes
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Following another day off, it’s back on the road to Bristol and the Colston Hall, an interestingly laid out venue with both seats and standing in the stalls area and the main stack of ceiling speakers seemingly not used for the gig.
The set starts off with Out To Get You, which is welcomed instantly by the crowd and characterised by six (Andy doesn’t join this song) musicians lost in their own things, coming together at the end of the song, particularly Tim and Saul cementing what looks like a very intense bonding. Born Of Frustration has the moshpit heaving as the trumpet call from Andy kicks in and the crowd holler back Tim’s vocals.
The new songs, once again, don’t feel out of place. Oh My Heart, whilst a relatively simple song, sounds huge as does Boom Boom, although there’s a minor mishap where Mark’s programmed part doesn’t kick in so Saul gets them out of a tricky spot with a stunning piece of violin work before the extended outro kicks back in and the song soars to its conclusion. Ring The Bells sounds massive, it’s still a relatively straight rendition, but it’s such a great song that it doesn’t really need a lot doing with it.
The “happy protest song” Hey Ma follows and as before has the crowd clapping and singing along with the chorus. Saul points out that Bob Marley probably invented the genre. Bubbles is simply beautiful, there’s a poignancy to the song that can’t be ignored as it builds, a raw emotion that is so critical, for me, in James appeal. Come Home, in contrast, is raw in a completely different way, laying scars out for public consumption. Musically, it sprawls and the crowd go absolutely wild for it. It’s not been significantly reworked but it sounds as fresh and vital as at any point since 1990.
There’s a comedy moment at the start of Monsters as the e-drum program doesn’t kick in properly so Dave, Saul and a roadie frantically try and fix it whilst Tim starts singing unaware of why the audience are cheering every time Dave hits the drums. Once the bass has been sorted out, it’s one of the best renditions of Monsters so far and the crowd generally behave themselves and listen. I Wanna Go Home merely cements this as one of the best shows of the tour so far, this was for me the best they’ve played this. As they become more comfortable with improvising the end section, it becomes more powerful with each night of the tour.
Johnny Yen is thrown into the main set rather than being saved for the encore. Again, Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty are namechecked, before the improvised vocals move on to more general subject matter around tortured artists. The crowd love it.
Waterfall still sounds odd with the lost verse, but it’s probably a case of familiarity with it being in there. Whiteboy is as usual a riot and She’s A Star brings with it the return of the heaving mass in the centre of the crowd.
Sound, yet again, takes things to a new level. There are so many different permutations with this song and the band take it down a new route each night. The lighting follows the band making it not just sound, but look, spectacular. Tomorrow is a very fitting set closer, fast, furious, impassioned and delirious.
The encore starts with a strangely quiet version of Getting Away With It, before a gorgeous rendition of Upside. Spoiled only by the inability of the crowd to keep quiet for five seconds before the final chorus kicks in. Some Welsh girl seems to think it’s her cue to scream things several times as the rest of the audience hush and then some idiot thinks whistling is a good idea. Tim, quite rightly, tells them to shut the fuck up and waits for the silence before coming back in.
Sometimes suffers at the start by Larry’s guitar not being tuned in, Tim jokes it’s a new avant-garde song, but once it gets started, the crowd are already singing back every word, so there’s very little encouragement needed for them to sing along at the end. Tonight, Tim joins back in singing once the band start playing again and it gets faster and faster before coming to a close.
All in all, an excellent gig, probably one of the top three of the tour so far, not reaching the heights of Norwich, but you can’t have everything. I Wanna Go Home was the highlight, but Sound pushed it very close. And the venue was nowhere near as bad as had been touted around beforehand.
SetlistTop Of The World / Born Of Frustration / Oh My Heart / Boom Boom / Ring The Bells / Hey Ma / Bubbles / Come Home / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / I Wanna Go Home / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Waterfall / Whiteboy / She's A Star / Sound / Tomorrow / Say Something / Upside / Sometimes
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A seated venue is not necessarily the most appropriate venue for a James gig. Let’s face it, no-one is going to be staying sat down too long and the chairs just get in the way (although, with the exception of two drunken fuckwits who were efficiently dealt with by security, people didn’t try and rush the front row).
Appropriately Top Of The World opened the set, Tim telling the audience to sit back and relax. However, most of the crowd remained standing. There’s an eerie hushedness as the song works through to its end with Tim and Saul almost eyeball to eyeball with duelling violin and vocals. Born Of Frustration pierces through the hush and Larry’s guitar cuts through the gap between stage and crowd bolstered by Andy’s revelatory trumpet calls.
Oh My Heart doesn’t let the pace drop and people remain standing for it. Tim asks the crowd at the end if they know who wrote the poem entitled Crazy Jane And The Bishop, and mocks them for not knowing given that we’re in Oxford (the correct answer is William Butler Yeats). Boom Boom has a similar effect on the crowd, but it’s still a little surreal with the chairs in the way. At the end Larry chides someone stood in front of him shouting out for songs that they’re not going to play and tells him to shut up.
Ring The Bells looks and sounds stunning, whilst Hey Ma again has the effect of the crowd clapping along and singing the chorus. Tim asks the audience if they know what the black swans reference is in the song, and laughs again when noone knows and points out noone is wearing a tie as he’s wearing his best clothes.
From a song about death to a song about life, Bubbles is as emotional and powerful as anything from the Hey Ma set, it builds to a peak as Tim’s words get faster and more evocative following the lead set by the band.
Come Home has the crowd delirious and fails to disappoint yet again. Tim makes use of the most of the stage, as does Andy who prowls the front of the stage, tambourine in hand, almost creating a comedy moment as he trips over the wires to one of the speakers at the front of the stage.
The venue is made for tracks like Of Monsters And Heroes And Men. It’s the best performance of it so far on the tour, the lights perfectly capturing the mood of the song and the set-up knocking much of the talking on the head. I Wanna Go Home has the band shooting off in different directions and gives Tim the opportunity to dance centre stage. At the end, the heckler Larry had chastised earlier is still shouting for Johnny Yen. Tim responds that the guy had been too busy shouting for it that he missed the new Johnny Yen and that if people kept shouting for songs, they’d take them off the list as they were awkward cantankerous Mancunians. Wonderful stuff.
Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) has the crowd back up and dancing, singing along. It builds more than it has done in previous live renditions, Larry less to the front with Saul taking the lead early on. Waterfall appears to have lost a verse somewhere, which makes no sense although I suspect it might be down to the curse of the “radio edit”. It feels a little odd, but that’s forgotten as the outro again sounds pretty much perfect.
Whiteboy is an absolute blast again as is She’s A Star. Highlight of the set is another impassioned version of Sound, full of another set of twists and turns, dips and dives, improvisations of music and lyrics. Wonderful stuff. Tomorrow keeps the pace through the end of the main set, despite the lack of a heaving mass of crowd to drive it on.
Say Something starts off the encore and Tim takes the opportunity to get out into the crowd, standing on chairs as he moves through them, not dropping a note, stopping to sing parts of the songs next to some lucky punters. The joy on people’s faces is a delight to behold.
Upside quietens people down but this allows the emotion and power of the song to shine through in the theatrical surroundings. Sometimes takes a while to get going, the crowd seemingly happy to sing along quietly, but with some encouragement, they get the message and it gets louder and louder, before the band come back in and finish the song off. Again, tonight, it’s on the brink of being forced rather than spontaneous, but at the end of it, you can’t argue with 2000 people on their feet singing back the refrain.
The seated venue meant this wasn’t going to match the spectacular of the previous night in Norwich, but it’s an excellent show, there’s still a strong communication between band and audience, the music still sounds as thrilling and on the edge as before and Tim and Andy have visually been stunning.
SetlistTop Of the World / Born Of Frustration / Oh My Heart / Boom Boom / Ring The Bells / Hey Ma / Bubbles / Come Home / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / I Wanna Go Home / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Waterfall / Whiteboy / She's A Star / Sound / Tomorrow / Johnny Yen / Upside / Sometimes
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Let’s cut to the chase. This was the best James, or any other gig, I’ve ever seen. Hamburg 1992 was my previous high-point, it’d had been pushed close over the years, but this show was something special. Everything seemed to fit into the place, the band performance was tight, together, yet splattered with moments of individual and group brilliance, an excellent sound system, stunning lighting and a crowd that was as happy to stand and listen respectfully the new material as it was to go mental for the more familiar songs.
Top Of The World is a surprise choice to open the set. UEA is my old hunting ground as I spent three years here, and oddly James opened a gig here in 1990 with the very same song. Instead of dampening the atmosphere built up by the band coming on late, it heightens the sense of something special being about to happen. Tim comments that it’s a sign that great nights are made of. Born Of Frustration simply confirms this. Andy’s trumpet acts as a clarion call to the crowd who respond by mimicking Tim’s yodel. As the song reaches its conclusion, the band appear to be driving Tim’s dancing, which is freer, more spontaneous and passionate than it’s been for a long long time.
Oh My Heart and Boom Boom demonstrate that Norwich seems to have got the message that Hey Ma is out there, more people seem to be singing along than elsewhere on the tour, and those that don’t know them don’t talk over them, they stand and listen, take it in and give them the reaction they deserve. The instrumental drop section of Boom Boom sees Saul at his very best as it gets more frenzied before the band crash back in.
Ring The Bells simply seals the victory early on for the band. The structure of the song exemplifies everything that is special about James, the outro gives Tim the opportunity to dance, Andy to take centre stage and for the masses to get lost in the music coming from the stage. Hey Ma resembles a communal singalong, I swear people who haven’t heard the song beforehand are singing along and clapping by the end. It’s so Jamesian that such a tragic subject matter can create such a celebration at a live show and it gets the message across in a way most whiney anti-war dirges fail to do so.
Bubbles has been a good barometer for the shows so far. Tonight, it grabs the crowd immediately at the point the song turns and builds. The e-drums fail Tim at the end and he’s pissed off, but jokes that they’d been switched off deliberately because his drumming was so bad, and recalls his early tambourine playing that had the band running for cover and claims that the peas in his maracas were removed so that only one remained to keep his playing out of the sound.
Come Home is magnificent. The set up of the venue prevents Tim going walkabout and staying on stage forces on-stage interaction to drive the song forward. As ever, it sounds at its very best when it’s seemingly on the brink of collapse.
Monsters has suffered from a lot of crowd talking so far on the tour, but there’s no such issues tonight and as a result it has the desired impact. The mirrorball generates cheers when it’s unveiled and it keeps people transfixed on Tim recounting the story of the song. The crystal clear sound just added to the simply spine-tingling, hairs up on the back of the neck feeling as the song rose to its conclusion.
I Wanna Go Home is breathtaking, ten hours later it’s difficult to find the words to describe just how good the song was, how Tim’s vocals merged perfectly with the band as they transform a relatively simple song into a mesmering mash of guitar, trumpet, bass, keyboards and two sets of drums as Tim loses himself in dance and the lights just make the sound more powerful and fascinating. It’s absolutely compelling stuff and James have no peers. At the end, there’s a light shined on Tim alone as he stretches out the last word of the song and everyone is stunned into silence.
Getting Away With It follows with its first appearance on the tour. Saul leads the song and it’s great to see him take the limelight for this track as it recognises his role in James between 1998 and 2001 where he took up the mantle in the absence of Larry and with the Jim / Tim relationship reportedly at its lowest point. It’s based tonight around a simple repeated riff but works wonderfully as it builds, Larry adding some delicious flourishes of guitar over the top. The crowd go mental.
The second set of drums Saul plays makes Waterfall a more ferocious track live than on the record. Andy’s trumpet over the end section pierces through the lights, which get better and better as the gig goes on.
Whiteboy is an absolute riot. Again, the band have fun with the swinging lights, the crowd have their arms in the air, clapping along. Strobes pierce the darkness as the song crashes to its end. Who really needs Laid as the fun, three minute classic when you have this?
She’s A Star is a straight rendition of a classic, but it’s done with a force that is now simply undeniable. The floor area is one big mass of bodies.
Sound seems to go on forever, and I was wishing it would. Three or four times it seemed the song would stop and it started again with different band members bringing it back up. There’s improvised lyrics, a section led by Dave’s drumming, a call and response of the “mah bah oo” where Tim sings a part and then holds the microphone for the crowd to sing the end back to him. The lights keep up with the improvisation going on from the stage. Some of the improvisation is done individually, but there’s points where two or three band members look and feed off each other. It’s mindblowing, words no longer work at this point to describe how good it was.
Tomorrow just seals the victory. Tim jumps onto the barrier, rather nervously at first, but crouches on it to sing directly at a number of members of the audience. When you can see the whites of his eyes, you can see the impact this is having on him, and the rest of the band. This is why they came back, not to do radio shows, interviews with people who’ve never heard of them, it’s to get this connection, this power and this emotion.
There’s no way they’re going to be let go at this stage. Johnny Yen starts the encore and is raggedly magnificent. Tim runs out of things to ask the audience for in the middle section, and just looks straight ahead and smiles as the music swirls around him. Upside sounds more imposing by the performance, even to the point where at the point the final chorus is due to come in Tim stops until the crowd is absolutely quiet before coming in. It’s punctuated by a “we love you James” shout from the crowd, and all the band smile in unison. And then off the song goes again.
Sometimes has the crowd singing from the very start, when it’s taken down, they’re still singing, but rather than a loud chant, it’s being sung. It gets louder and louder and then the band bring it back in, Dave and Larry building the music up louder and faster. Tim stands on the spot, then jumps up and down and dances on the spot. It’s a new twist on the ending of the show. And then they’re gone. Noone really complains too much that there’s no Sit Down or no Laid.
I don’t think I can adequately say in words how good this gig was – if you had the good fortune to have been there though, you will know exactly what I mean. Ten hours later, I’m still buzzing, sleep wasn’t particularly easy (despite less than four hours the last two nights) as the adrenalin is still flowing. Everything was right – the venue, the sound, the crowd, the lighting, the unusual set opener, the old favourite reintroduced, Tim’s voice, the music, the improvisation. It was the greatest gig I’ve had the pleasure of attending ever. It answers Larry’s question in the interview why anyone would want to go to Norwich.
SetlistBorn Of Frustration / Waltzing Along / Oh My Heart / Boom Boom / Ring The Bells / Hey Ma / Bubbles / Come Home / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / I Wanna Go Home / Honest Joe / Out To Get You / Waterfall / Whiteboy / She's A Star / Sound / Tomorrow / Johnny Yen / Upside / Sometimes
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Once or twice during the set, Larry and Tim make reference to the traditionally dour London audiences that don’t get involved in shows. Tonight, for the hits in the set, the crowd prove that they can rock as well any other crowd in the country and it’s acknowledged by the band. However, during the slower songs and the new album tracks, the response is very different. Even those close to the front appear disinterested, turn round talk to their friends, ask for their photo to be taken and generally do pretty much anything except listen, take in or dance to the new material. Getting to the top ten without selling the album in supermarkets is no mean achievement, it almost seems the band have done it without selling any albums to Londoners as well.
All of this takes the shine off what was, for me, the band’s best performance of the tour so far. James are at their best when they push themselves to the limits, ragged around the edges, driving each other on and almost being on the brink of it all collapsing but pulling through and there’s more excitement in the performance for this. Even the awful sound set up of the venue, uncharacteristic for the Empire based on my prior experiences, can’t take away from that.
Frustration, rightfully restored to the head of the setlist is an absolute blast. You can see from the expressions on his face that Tim is loving being back in this band and being on stage in front of so many people. Combined with Waltzing Along, it’s a great start to the gig and expectations are high that this could surpass anything on the tour to date. Oh My Heart and Boom Boom don’t receive too bad a response for starters, and Ring The Bells brings the moshpit, for what it was, back to life. Hey Ma does bring some recognition for the new material and is sung back by part of the crowd with some gusto as the lighting effects work well with the music to create a very powerful and evocative image.
Bubbles is flat though, the crowd don’t get lifted by the second half of the song. Tim dances like a dervish and frantically half sings half shouts the words, but the crowd just stand, talk and mooch.
Come Home temporarily changes this, Tim jumps down from the stage, checks out the front row and then makes a move for the bar at the right of the stage and clambers on top to deliver the majority of the song. Part of the crowd dance in the way the song compels you to, another part blocks the view of others by having to film the event on their mobile phone cameras for some sort of posterity rather than letting the music take them away
Monsters And Heroes And Men is starting to feel a little flat live, it’s not, for me, recapturing the glory of the album version, particularly the outro section where the music swamps the vocals. Tim standing still with the mirrorball doesn’t really add a lot to the visuals of the song either, where there could be room for some activity to distract the crowd from their important conversations.
I Wanna Go Home gets better every night, live, it’s as if it’s grown up from being the quiet child at the end of the record to being a rowdy teenager out in the venues. It’s not got the crowd interaction tonight it’s had on previous nights but it’s still a highlight of the set.
Next is a welcome return for Honest Joe. Sadly, it’s shorn of much input from Saul tonight, so there’s no second set of vocals through the megaphone as there appeared to be a technical problem. But it still is a monster of a song that pulses and throbs and demonstrates that James are not just going to take the easy path of throwing out hits they’ve played hundreds of times before amongst the new material.
Out To Get You gets a warm reception, it’s not a hit as such, but as it’s on the Best Of, it might as well be. Not being brought out every night, it retains a freshness and an improvisational spirit that is at the absolute core of a lot of what James do.
Waterfall and Whiteboy are switched round in the set. To be honest, it probably worked better before the switch, as the chaos and madness and fun of Whiteboy is a great contrast to the slower tracks that have preceded. Consequently, Waterfall, despite Tim announcing it as the next single, didn’t get the response it’s had at previous dates. It still sounds classic James though, and it’s worth reminding people that once upon a time, twenty or so years ago, songs like Sit Down sat mid-set as new tracks. Hopefully, the strength of tonight’s set will send people out to acquaint themselves with Hey Ma. Whiteboy is almost throwaway, particularly with the swinging lights, but is a whole heap of fun.
The set ends, as it starts, with the crowd going wild for hits. She’s A Star is as bold, as brash and as powerful sounding as it’s ever been. Sound just revels in the quality of the musicians playing it, the twists and turns the song takes every night and a stunning lighting backdrop which soften the crowd up for the killer blow of Tomorrow, which is as fitting a main set closer as James have. It’s got all the ingredients of a classic James single and the words will probably talk to a vast majority of the crowd in a way that singing them back feels like a communion. And there’s lots of moshing going on as well.
Johnny Yen opens up the encore, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of previous nights, the improvised section doesn’t take off as it did elsewhere. Upside sounds magnificent, but the crowd response is quite muted, you can hear the conversations from the bar very clearly as the final chorus is about to kick in, whereas on other nights it’s been characterised by the crowd singing along much stronger than tonight.
Sometimes takes a little encouragement from the band for the crowd to start singing the refrain back, Tim chides them for “singing worse than Ian Brown”, but once the singing starts, it does seem like it’s never going to stop.
So, a great performance by the band, wonderful interaction on stage between them, none of the dour faces or the sheer concentration of previous nights. It’s a shame it was spoiled a little by a crowd that responded to the hits but, in general, didn’t appear that interested in the new material. And before you get all indignant, if you’re reading this and getting upset that I’m saying this, I probably don’t mean you personally. I think if I’d have queued early and stood on the front row on the barrier, this could have been pretty much a perfect gig.
Nick Hasted (The Independent)
If James were ever hip, it only lasted an instant – perhaps the second that Morrissey, in his Smiths pomp, declared them to be his favourite band. Whether hitching a ride on the Madchester wave with the phenomenal success of “Sit Down”, or working with Brian Eno, Tim Booth’s band have always been viewed with suspicion. This may be because, in place of studied cool, James deal in sometimes pompous, always heartfelt spiritual quests and literary conceits. They are genuinely odd, appealing to quiet misfits – like the man who is having some sort of weeping, nervous breakdown next to me, as James play London with a new album for the first time since 2001
Booth, as he sings on that album Hey Ma, is now “too old for Hamlet, too young for Lear” – “my mirror’s laughing at me,” he admits on new single “Waterfall”. But the main change is not his now-bald head. Booth has always been a violently physical performer, as if jolted across the stage by electric shocks. But a new willingness to be still intensifies the effect when he spasms into action, or clambers into the crowd for “Come Home”.
“Out to Get You”, a song about intimacy, collapsing identity and naked need, is when the real communion with the crowd starts. “She’s a Star”, a positive anthem of insecurity and embattled alienation, is soon followed by Booth inviting us to “shed a skin”. With the new songs sharing the old hits’ Nineties art-populist style, and Andy Diagram back on board (in a polka-dot dress) to blast out trumpet fanfares, Booth’s sometimes fantastical, novelistic words hit cleanly home. The swampy swirl of fast guitars recalls the band’s work with Eno, while other moments hint at their distant beginnings in post-punk Manchester. “Hey Ma” considers today’s Iraq body-bags, but feels no more current than 1986’s “Johnny Yen”, about fame’s corrosive effects.
James’s role as positive-minded outsiders, who have resisted the self-destructive crack-ups they sing about, underpins the show. The sensual openness that also sets them apart is felt on “I Want to Go Home”, where Booth holds a high note with tantric macho. But “Sometimes”, the hit with which they close, is the apogee. “Come on thunder!” Booth appeals, as if wishing to be washed clean. And James’s faithful, unfashionable fans oblige, harmonising on the chorus long after the band stop. Booth soaks it up with his old friends, who look stunned, and proud. They still matter.
Ian Gittins, The Guardian
When James split in 2001, a reunion appeared an unlikely prospect. After a vibrant 20-year career that saw them enhance the Madchester and Britpop scenes alike, relationships within the band had foundered: singer Tim Booth described their final years as “totally dysfunctional”.
Yet, after sold-out arena shows last year, the Mancunian group recently unveiled a stunningly vivacious comeback album, Hey Ma, which tonight they perform to perfection. Their return excites huge affection: the theatre is full of burly, crop-haired mid-lifers, but many appear to be blinking back tears.
James’s forte has always been giddy, impetuous music powered by effervescent sprung rhythms. A lot of their appeal, however, is down to the enigmatic Booth. His lyrics are all canny feints and wily wordplay, while his shaven head can’t help but reinforce his eerie resemblance to the similarly literate, elliptical Michael Stipe.
The hits are rapturously received, of course, with Booth touring the venue during the trumpet-driven Come Home, even striding along the drinks bar as if carried there on a groundswell of adoration. But the night’s weirdest moment is the new album’s title track, an oblique musing on the post-9/11 world order that sees him chant the jaunty chorus of “Hey Ma, the boys in body bags are coming home in pieces!” as if in contrary celebration.
Johnny Yen sounds as twitchy and delirious as when it was written in 1983. And then, at the close, James stand stock-still and humbled as their devoted fans bawl the chorus of Sometimes back at them for a full 10 minutes. The only smiles broader than those in the crowd are those on the stage.
SetlistDestiny Calling / Born Of Frustration / Oh My Heart / Boom Boom / Ring The Bells / Hey Ma / Bubbles / Come Home / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / I Wanna Go Home / Out To Get You / Whiteboy / Waterfall / She's A Star / Sound / Tomorrow / Upside / Laid / Sometimes
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Review by OnOfTheThree.com
Onto Sheffield and the third ever gig at the new Academy. Teething problems abound, the band are forced to use a lot of the venue’s PA which leads to difficulties on stage, ticketing issues lead to some being refused entry and there’s so much security doing so little as there are a few rogue elements in the crowd.
The set opens with Destiny Calling, a new addition to the tour set, and it doesn’t work as an opener in the way Frustration has throughout the tour, even though the crowd, quite predictably, love it. Never fear, Born of Frustration still sounds great wherever it is dropped into the set, tonight it’s second.
What’s clear immediately is a much more together feeling on stage, there’s smiles, looks and people facing each other as they play in a way that hadn’t been apparent previous to this on the tour, and the whole mood, celebratory as it is, seems much better on stage and it spreads to the audience. The new songs sound as strong as they have done the whole tour, even allowing for a Jamesian moment as Hey Ma is brought to a halt at the first chorus as it wasn’t sounding right on stage. Tim and Larry look at each other and smile knowingly, then the song is a great success, the crowd singing along and clapping as if it’s an old favourite.
The best receptions are reserved for the old favourites, Come Home sends the crowd delirious and Out To Get You, on its tour debut, sounds as fresh and poignant as it ever has. Prior to it, Monsters and I Wanna Go Home have had the same effect on the crowd, particularly the latter which is making a claim to be the new song of the tour. Freed from the minimalist treatment on record, it’s a massive track and has the crowd dancing and clapping, a sign that the new record isn’t being lost on the audiences.
Whiteboy and Waterfall bring the crowd nicely to a boil before the hat-trick of She’s A Star, Sound and Tomorrow ignite the already seething mass in a communal singalong. People sit and stare as Sound rises, drops and rises again in a way James have no peers at.
Upside opens the encore and is sang back with a ferocity not evident to date on the tour. Laid nails the victory though, fast, frenetic, extended – it’s a simple track and an easy win for the band, but noone in the venue is complaining. Sometimes follows the pattern of Newcastle, the crowd taking the mantle and starting the singalong which again has the band visibly moved.
An excellent gig, not the best so far, but Newcastle was going to take some beating. The interaction on stage was a joy to see and bodes well for some great performances to come in some of the more traditional, Carling-free venues of the next leg of the tour.
SetlistBorn Of Frustration / Waltzing Along / Oh My Heart / Boom Boom / Ring The Bells / Hey Ma / Bubbles / Come Home / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / I Wanna Go Home / Say Something / Whiteboy / Waterfall / She's A Star / Sound / Tomorrow / Johnny Yen / Upside / Sometimes / Laid
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Review by OneOfTheThree.com
After a well-deserved day off, it’s onto Newcastle for the next leg of the tour. No Peter Kay tonight but that doesn’t dampen the crowd’s spirits as the band come on. The atmosphere is electric, there’s a real buzz about the crowd, more so than any of the dates so far and it’s maintained throughout the whole show, which is probably, in all, the best so far. We are even treated to a second encore as the roadies are told to stop unplugging and the house lights aren’t raised.
The first half of the set is a bit subdued on stage and it’s Tim that drives it along with a performance as fierce as anything I’ve seen since the reunion and for a very long time before that. Saul gets dragged along and is more active than on previous nights and by the end, the band and the crowd are absolutely rocking.
Born Of Frustration and Waltzing Along are a great double whammy opener and take the temperature inside the venue up considerably. The crowd sing back every word, even though Tim did reserve the right to get his own lyrics wrong at times. The new material, starting with Oh My Heart and Boom Boom, is received better tonight than anywhere else on the tour, far more respectful. They sound fantastic too, not at all out of place sandwiched between the first two tracks and a truly awesome Ring The Bells, which sounds looser and freer than on previous nights on the tour.
The “happy protest song” Hey Ma sees arms raised, clapping along in time and a fair amount of singing along. Bubbles makes the hairs on the back of the neck stand up, such is the emotion and power in the song as it builds through the first half before the explosion and the cacophany of trumpet and guitar that propels it to its end. Tim is singing and dancing like a man possessed at this point and encouraging Saul and Andy.
Come Home is met with deafening cheers and still has the vitality and freshness the version played on this tour has brought back to it.
There’s a technical problem before Of Monsters And Heroes And Men, which Tim claims responsibility for. To lighten the mood, Tim tells the crowd Jim is going to tell a joke. It’s an awful one. Along the lines of “Why do divers always dive backwards? Because if they dived forwards they’d hit the boat”. Still, Monsters is stunning, and the crowd stop and listen rather than talking through it as had been the case in Liverpool.
I Wanna Go Home is where the gig really turns. It still feels odd the crowd clapping along at the start given the subject matter, but the song is the one off Hey Ma that is utterly transformed in the live environment. Saul moves to the back to play a second set of drums and there’s a sign between Larry and Saul which is the first genuine interaction of the evening across the stage. It’s the turning point of the gig, the rest is James at their very very best.
Taking the lead, Tim ignores the traditional leap onto the barrier to exit stage left and climb onto one of the venue bars and sing the song and dance from there. The crowd love it and it brings a new edge to a song that has sounded a little flat at recent shows.
Whiteboy is a riot, even Tim joins in with the swinging lights, although I’m not sure they’re supposed to be swung as violently as he did. Waterfall is sounding more and more like an absolute James classic that will be hard to shift from the setlist. Andy’s trumpet over the outro is truly beautiful.
The crowd go wild for the closing trio of She’s A Star, Sound and Tomorrow. Sound is phenomenal, the improvisation in the end section is again unique and is accompanied by Tim’s frenzied dancing, clearly free of the back problems that hindered him earlier in the tour. Tomorrow reduces the crowd to a hot, heaving mass.
Johnny Yen opens the encore, the middle section has Tim “on the outside, looking in, searching for a connection” before name-checking Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty as the latest in a line that included Kurt Cobain and Jimi Hendrix. It’s very clearly not the work of a band on auto-pilot, but a band that’s connecting on stage and driving each other on. Suddenly, they’re looking round at each other, smiling. It’s great to see.
Upside, once it gets going, does take the tempo down slightly, but the crowd love it, and the end section has them dancing and moshing as if it’s an old favourite.
Sometimes is an absolute revelation. Every word is sung back with a ferocity and passion that seems to stun the band, Tim and Saul share a moment half way through when Tim leans on Saul’s shoulder and there’s no need to try and encourage the crowd to sing the ending back. It’s loud and the band are visibly taken aback. Larry ditches his guitar and dances. Tim jumps up and down and dances. The band try to sneak off stage, but the crowd are having none of it, the ovation goes on for several minutes and forces the band back for a fast and very frantic Laid, which satisfies those in the crowd who’ve been shouting for it from the start.
Best gig of the tour so far, took a while to get going and was held together early on by Tim, but the second half was simply mind-blowingly fantastic. The crowd were respectful of the new material, yet went crazy at every opportunity and did their city proud.
by Helen Smithson, News Guardian.co.uk
CLASSIC indie rockers James showed Newcastle their soul during an energetic performance at a sold-out Carling Academy on Monday night.Watching James perform live is a completely different experience to listening to them on a stereo.
The energy and enthusiasm from the band is infectious, especially charismatic frontman Tim Booth, and even after performing together for so many years and with countless albums under their belts, they seemed genuinely humbled by their reception at Newcastle.
Old favourites Born Of Frustration and Waltzing Along provided a strong opening to a gig which just kept getting more and more spectacular.
Booth thrilled the crowd during Say Something when he disappeared from the stage, re-appearing moments later on the Bar on the left hand side of the Academy which he used as a platform to perform most of the song.
He seemed to be enjoying himself so much with his frenetic dancing at one point that he seemed to head-butt his microphone, then sent it flying across the stage with one of his wild arm movements.
This gig wasn’t just a nostalgic trip through the band’s back catalogue, it was also about showcasing their new material from the album Hey Ma which was released earlier this month.
The songs sounded fresh and modern whilst still staying true to the band’s roots, and tracks such as Whiteboy and protest song Hey Ma were greeted with excitement by the crowd.
There was always a feeling that this gig was building up to something special, and that is exactly what happened as the band started to wind down their final song Sometimes.
As the singing and accompanying music got quieter, the crowd raised their arms in the air and sang the
lyrics “sometimes, when I look in your eyes, I see your soul” over and over again.
Eventually the band stopped playing completely, stood back and seemed to watch in amazement as the crowd carried on singing.
Booth and his fellow members looked genuinely touched and emotional by the reception.
Technicians dismantling the stage after what was supposed to be the final song suddenly started hurriedly putting the equipment back together as the band burst back onto the stage for an unplanned second encore to thank their adoring crowd.
The excitement levels shot through the roof as they launched into the awesome Laid, ending a phenomenal gig on an amazing high.
It felt like James loved their audience as much as their audience loved them during this gig, and after the band’s humble reaction at the end of Sometimes, it felt like the crowd had actually seen their soul.
SetlistBorn Of Frustration / Waltzing Along / Oh My Heart / Boom Boom / Ring The Bells / Hey Ma / Bubbles / Come Home / Of Monsters And Heroes And Men / I Wanna Go Home / Say Something / Whiteboy / Waterfall / She's A Star / Sound / Tomorrow / Johnny Yen / Upside / Lullaby / Sometimes
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Well that was a slightly weird and surreal gig. Not a bad one, but unusual. It starts with comedian Peter Kay coming on stage to introduce James. He mocks someone for shouting out “garlic bread” out of context and tells the crowd there’s nine new songs on the set, but no Sit Down and then gets the crowd to sing along to part of Lullaby and then scribbles it onto the setlist before introducing the band.
The set opens with two older songs rather than just Born Of Frustration and the crowd, definitely the most energetic of the tour so far when the hits are out, goes barmy. Andy plays guitar on Waltzing Along again – he doesn’t play badly at all, but it just looks odd. As at the previous gigs, the new songs don’t sound out of place next to the older, more familiar songs, and the faster ones still have people dancing although people around me seem bemused by the strings section of Boom Boom. Ring The Bells is boosted by stunning lighting and has the front rows heaving. The message of Hey Ma, “creating a new genre – the happy protest song” according to Tim, is enhanced by the verses being made more sparse than on the record, emphasising the words of the chorus. Bubbles builds and builds and then explodes in a flurry of bass, guitar, trumpet and e-drums.
Come Home sees Tim jump down into the crowd. And then it hits home, there hasn’t been much interaction on stage at all between the band. Tim has always talked about coming down to the crowd when there’s communication lacking, but to date it’s been reserved for Say Something. Come Home sounds huge though, on the edge of collapse, but all the better for it.
Of Monsters and Heroes and Men, more than other songs, suffers from the crowd talking over the new songs, probably more tonight than other nights. Tim reacts by telling the crowd to fuck off to the back if they want to talk and to stand in the corner. I Wanna Go Home enduces mass hand-clapping before Tim kicks in with the opening line “In this bar, I am dying”. As I said surreal.
Tim wanders off stage and appears by the side of the speaker stack for Say Something. The crowd love this song, so I think I’ll put my feelings on it to bed for now. Whiteboy is the highlight, the swinging lights, the strobes and the sheer pace of the performance, and Tim keeping up with the band tonight, make it an absolute blast. Waterfall is a massive song with the potential, with the right radio plugging and promotion as the next single, to be the next chapter in James success story (chart-wise). Live, it wins over the doubters around me.
The last three songs revert to the back catalogue, Tim telling the crowd to enjoy them as they’d be going away for a while after December. She’s A Star is fresh, vital and turns the crowd into a sweaty mass. Sound is as vital as it ever has been, the end section off on a different tangent to the previous night, but still not a lot of interaction on stage, which has characterised this in the past. Tomorrow is fast and furious, the perfect set closer.
The band go off and on their return Tim jokes about having learnt Lullaby in the break. The encore starts with Johnny Yen, again aimed at Amy Winehouse in the break down section of the song, and again not sounding at all like a twenty-two year old album track.
Upside starts with Tim making the rather cryptic statement “This is the sound of greatness, this is the sound of a heart breaking” over Saul’s opening guitar section. Have no idea what that was about. The song itself is an epiphany, heart-felt, personal and epic.
They do try Lullaby, and it sounds great. Despite asking the crowd for the words, Tim is pretty much word perfect. The crowd keep quiet enough for the subject matter and emotion of the song not to be lost in the talking. It’s such a poignant song that it has the hairs standing up on the back of the neck and displays the vulnerable side to James that the setlist doesn’t bring to the fore too often.
Sometimes has the crowd singing back from the very start and the extended ending with the crowd singing back was simply stunning, no real encouragement required by the band. There’s a botched attempt for the band to come back in, proving there is still spontaneity there, is laughed off and it stretches out to almost ten minutes for the song. It’s a great way to finish the gig when it’s as natural and exciting as this.
So, it was not a bad gig, the performance was up with any of the other dates so far, but I left with this nagging feeling that something didn’t seem right. James gigs are often characterised by the interaction between the band and there wasn’t any, Saul was unusually quiet and Tim seemed very isolated, hence his two excursions off stage. Others I spoke to afterwards had the same feeling. Let’s hope we’re wrong. But as I said, still a great gig, and the vast majority of the audience left the gig buzzing.
Day off today. Thank God.
The Times Review by David Sinclair
Last year, when James made their initial comeback after six years in limbo, it was all about reaffirming the triumphs of the past — time to get nostalgic for the 1990s, already. This time the band who achieved chart glory in the “Madchester” pop boom with their biggest hit, Sit Down, have returned for a three-week tour with a new album, Hey Ma, and a much more forward-looking agenda. As if to drive home the point, they didn’t even play Sit Down.
“They’ve got nine songs from the new album on the set list,” said the comedian Peter Kay, pulling a shocked face, as he introduced James at the University of Liverpool. Borrowing a pen, Kay added his own choice, an obscure dirge called Lullaby, which the band had not rehearsed. In a gallant gesture of accord, they played it for him — and pretty well, all things considered. But not before they had got through a substantial chunk of Hey Ma, an element of the show that was clearly non-negotiable as far as Tim Booth, the lead singer, was concerned. “If you want to talk, go to the back of the room,” he snapped at a gaggle of fans as the band started I Wanna Go Home, a maudlin tale of despair that went against the grain of the band’s more typically upbeat sound.
Booth, whose latter-day bald look gives him a far more commanding stage presence than when he was just another floppy-haired indie-kid, sang with a hard authority, and some of his new lyrics were smarter than ever. “My mum says I look like Yul Brynner/Too old for Hamlet, too young for Lear,” he sang in Whiteboy.
Waterfall, with its hefty back beat and Lou Reed-type vocal line was an instant winner, and the title track of Hey Ma, a resounding anti-war polemic that avoided the usual glib certainties, was another clear success. Another new one, Bubbles, with the chorus “I’m alive, I’m alive” was dedicated, rather incongruously, to the late Tony Wilson.
Andy Diagram, the trumpet player, put on an energetic display and Larry Gott, on guitar, had invested in a bohemian beret and a moody pair of shades, but there was not much to distract from Booth’s dominance. A lack of showmanship lent the band a classic quality, and they seemed less weighed down by historical baggage than an act of their vintage might have expected to be.
There were plenty of hits, from the opening battlecry of Born of Frustration to the soaring choruses of Come Home and She’s a Star. Best of all was an stirring encore of Sometimes, which ended with a gospel-like chant that was picked up with such enthusiasm by the audience that it rekindled an impromptu repeat of the last chorus. It was an emotional close to a proud and purposeful performance.
Andy Kelly, Liverpool Daily Post
THERE aren’t many bands who could call upon the services of Peter Kay as a warm-up man, but then James aren’t just any band.
The Bolton comic takes to the stage in a sweltering Mountford Hall for a 10-minute cameo to introduce one of his favourite bands and implore them to play his favourite song. Back after a seven-year gap, James – along with The Charlatans, the great survivors of the Madchester era – have delivered an album in Hey Ma which can sit proudly alongside most of their back catalogue.
It makes up quite a bit of the band’s set, and it’s a measure of its quality that these new songs don’t break the momentum built up by old favourites like the anthemic Come Home and Born of Frustration. The title track itself is a terrific anti-war song, with tales of boys arriving home in pieces in body bags.
Of the other new songs, I Want To Go Home, Waterfall and Whiteboy are greeted like old favourites by this packed Liverpool crowd, who know all the words already within a week of the album’s release. White lanterns swing above the band’s head as Tim Booth and friends unleash yet another harmony-packed three minutes, trumpet and violin filling out the soaring melodies to great effect. With his bald head and thin tash making him a double for Ming the Merciless, Booth is a whirling dervish of a front man, every so often let- ting himself go into his full freaky dancing repertoire.
Perhaps fellow baldy Michael Stipe is the only current frontman who can match him in vocal power, unleashed to its full on She’s a Star, Tomorrow and Sound.
Kay gets his way as Lullaby forms part of the encore alongside Johnny Yen before a Gospel-tinged Sometimes brings a hugely uplifting night to a close. It’s an astonishing finale as Booth stands transfixed as the crowd sings the chorus back to him long after the band have finished.
Maybe he was remembering the night almost 20 years ago when a Liverpool crowd was the first to sing Sit Down (like Laid not played tonight) back to his band, as they hovered on the verge of their big break. Welcome back, boys.