SetlistLaid / Waltzing Along / Tomorrow / She's A Star / I Know What I'm Here For / God Only Knows / Protect Me / Out To Get You / Hymn From A Village / Someone's Got It In For Me / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / English Beefcake / Sometimes / Johnny Yen / Born of Frustration / Ring The Bells / Top Of The World / Sound / Come Home / Sit Down
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So it’s over. An era has come to an end. And what a way to go. Sentimentality by the bucketload, but as stunning and unpredictable as James have been for a long time, surpassing even the Manchester show on Friday.
Laid and Waltzing Along were subdued openings to the set, the sheer emotion of the night weighing heavily on the band and crowd. However, a dedication of Tomorrow to Paul Gilbertson, without whom….., lifted the fog and the song sounded louder, more heartfelt, more powerful than ever before with Saul in particular on fire pounding like a demon possessed across the stage. Game on.
She’s A Star brought an equally delirious response, with Tim perfecting his ragdoll dance before taking to the speaker stack stage left. What was clear was that he had saved possibly his best vocal performance I can remember for this final gig. This followed into a hyper version of I Know What I’m Here For with Tim changing the lyric to “don’t know what I’m here for.” Adrian and Michael were in fine form, both more active than at previous shows.
Andy Diagram appeared at the back of the stage and Tim announced that they were going to do a song prepared specially for tonight. “What For”, “Seven”, we all thought. Sadly, or not as it was to turn out, it was God Only Knows. And it was simply mindblowing with trumpet, three guitars, bass, drums and keyboard all fighting for space as Geoff Buckley provided the stunning lighting backdrop.
Another special guest appeared – Larry Gott sauntered on stage with his self-designed Conran chair and the rest of the band except Jim and Tim left. Protect Me was a simple and yet a heartbreakingly poignant moment. Out To Get You followed, slightly marred by the audience clapping drowning out Larry’s slide guitar. A wonderful improvised ending recalled old James circa 1992-3.
And then possibly the musical highlight of the evening. “Our second single” as Tim described it, Hymn From A Village was powered off, Tim reeling off the lyrics as if competing with Larry’s frenetic guitar to get to the end first. Absolutely magical.
The 2001 James returned for a runthrough of Someone’s Got It In For Me, Tim losing himself in a trance as the band raised the tempo to a simply stunning climax. You have to wonder how what he does next can even bring him close to the highs he experiences at these moments.
Pleased To Meet You was thankfully not neglected. “Our new anthem” Getting Away With It was first and was a slight disappointment. English Beefcake more than made up for this with Saul outstanding on violin, his much neglected tool of the trade. Brian Eno joined the band on stage for the conclusion of this track.
Sometimes followed next and was another musical highlight of the evening. Eno stayed on stage to sing backing vocals and took them to a new plain. Even Jim and Adrian were moving around as the song built and built to the climax of Tim, Eno and Michael chanting the chorus line, before the band went into a improvised instrumental ending never previously heard before. The improvisation spirit of James had suddenly come back – a song that had always had a straighforward treatment was raised to a completely new level. Absolutely astonishing it was too.
Johnny Yen drew massive cheers from the crowd, Andy’s trumpet call in the opening section setting the scene for a cacophony of noise as the song drove to its climax with Tim and Andy prowling the stage urging the others on.
Born of Frustration and Ring The Bells followed in the same vein. Andy’s presence added a new edge to Frustration, giving it back its calling card trumpet. Ring The Bells was simply immense, building, getting faster all the time to a cacophony of noise interspersed with a rap from Andy whilst Tim danced himself into an altered state.
And that was it. The band left the stage to a huge ovation, clearly moved the reaction they were getting. The waterworks opened for some fans as the reality of the situation began to sink in.
Back came Jim, Adrian and Mark to play the opening bars of Top Of The World before the spotlight turned to the back of the arena where Tim appeared to sing. For his violin part Saul appeared on a balcony stage left. The audience focus on these two did unfortunately take some of the attention off a wonderful spine-tingling bass line from Jim.
Larry reappeared again and the band opened up Sound, over ten minutes of aural stimulation, each instrument fighting with each other for space, creating a whirlpool of noise that no other band on the planet could hope to match with Tim’s faultless vocal holding the whole thing together. Again, the presence of Andy’s trumpet took things higher.
Then they left again. To more frantic massively deserved applause and much emotion. We knew they’d be back though.
And so they were. The opening bars of Come Home rang out and the crowd went ballistic. Fitting to the evening, this was the strongest performance of this track for a long time, superbly paced to capture the raw emotion and power of the track.
And then there was one to go. And we all know what it was to be. A beautiful keyboard opening by Mark over which Tim and 10,000 of us sang the opening verse and chorus before the rest of the band came in to take the song to a celebratory but not-in-the-slightest-bit cliched ending with several fans helped on stage by security to fulfil a James tradition of stage invasions.
The band then bade their farewells, the crowd keeping them on stage for a full five minutes to show not just their appreciation for tonight’s stunning show, but for providing so many of us with a soundtrack to our lives, a rock in times of need and the source of so much joy and inspiration.
Whether we were there at the beginnings or came in with the Best Of or later, there was something for everyone, the set was unpredictable but representative of James. A truly unique band in a world where formula and genre are all important. To put James in an appropriate box, you’d have to make a box especially for them. A fitting end to an era of the greatest band of our times. History will serve them well.
Well, there was never going to be another James concert quite like this again. In all truth, that statement could be applied to most James gigs down the years – but this time it was going to that bit more unique than ever. Certainly three members of the night would never be seen live with the band again and of course it was Tim Booth¹s big farewell. And that gave Wembley Arena an almost eerie feel as James took to the stage in this form for one last time.
Looking back on it now, its very hard to express the feelings I had and probably most of the crowd shared. Firstly, it was a privilege to be part of Tim Booth’s last ever concert for after twenty years with James it was to be a ‘were you there?’ type of occasion. But then what I felt was despair, for as James kept hammering out the hits we so know and love, you instantly knew you would never hear them played live again – certainly not like this anyway. And you could feel the band were both nervous and anxious….maybe this wouldn’t go quite as smoothly as hoped. And above all I and many others felt sadness and at times leading up to that opening song, I really didn¹t want to be there to witness this. Like saying good-bye to a close friend its never easy at the best of times.
But the band were here and were ready to do a job. The first three numbers Laid, Waltzing Along and a Paul Gilbertson dedicated Tomorrow were played tentatively and the first two sounding slightly awkward and forced even. They certainly weren¹t received with as much energy as the fans in Glasgow the previous evening. But as said before this was always going to be a difficult performance especially for the first few songs anyway. But I know what I¹m here for or as Tim seemed to call it Don’t Know What I¹m Here For got things moving and settled the nerves. Brilliantly delivered by the band, as always it was a real crowd pleaser. Same could be said of She¹s a Star another song to take its final bow (well, I say final as I can¹t another singer pulling it off as brilliantly as Tim) The song created a real connection between the band and audience as it has done many a time down the years and numerous gigs.
“Oh look it¹s Mr Andrew Diagram” said Tim as the man himself almost in shy but equally charming fashion took the huge applause of the crowd. Like in Glasgow he looked right at home – his trumpeting skills used expertly throughout the night. And firstly we heard them on the roof raising God Only Knows. The crowd loved every second of the song as did Tim who for one final time effortlessly found words to sum up his view of religion and god in the song’s mid-section over an ever building crescendo of guitar, drums and keyboard behind him. Like many of James less well known songs it has always been a true gem that no band could come close to emulating. “So now we¹ve covered religion, lets move on to shopping” says Tim.
The turning point of the whole night which still felt a little tense was the surprise return for one last time of the much loved ex-guitarist James Larry Gott. With no offence to Adrian Oxaal or Michael Kulas intended, this is someone who was always missed and never quite replaced. Most of the band who had been full of energy all night so far then left the stage as Tim, Larry and Jim joined together in centre stage to play an acoustic Protect Me. A touching little song which had been overblown on the Seven album returned to its bare essentials tonight and it was much better for it. Not only did it move the audience emotionally, it moved the band too.
Larry continued on-stage for possibly the finest ever Out To Get You and he was immense back playing the lead guitar parts he once commanded like no other. It didn’t get any better or more emotional than this. But it certainly was going to be equalled by the more than welcome return of 1985 single Hymn From A Village. It was almost like being transported back into the 80’s, the song starting with that cack-handed drumbeat and leading into the Paul Gilbertson’s unique guitar playing style, impersonated by both Dave and Larry as always and it helped to remind the audience of just where this amazing band evolved from. Tonight this was something to be treasured as finally all the nerves and tension from the gig had gone. It could now become the perfect farewell party we wanted it to be.
Someone’s Got It In For Me was definitely going to be Tim’s solo performance of the night. A song that he¹s always been completely and unashamedly proud of and it was sung full of passion as always. It serves to remind us all of how good a singer he is and what he gave this band. The last single Getting Away With It or as Tim described it “James theme song” got the crowd moving and out of their seats again before the glorious English Beefcake was played with another special guest appearance. As the song moved into its closing section, another figure quietly made his way on-stage. This was as the big screens soon revealed James father figure and main producer of the last nine years – Brian Eno. And again it was a privilege to see him together with Tim singing the gorgeous little finale tothe song.
Sometimes had curiously been left out of the set lists opening tracks (unlike at other venues on the tour) so we should have known it was to get special treatment. And indeed Eno stayed on-stage to sing the hymn like choral finale to one of the finest songs ever written. The finale this time was brilliantly stretched out for over two minutes as Dave dipped in and out of his drumbeat underneath the band’s continuing vocals. It was the perfect way to hear it done one final time.
With the atmosphere at a real a high, the official last trio of the night began – once more joined by the sublime skills of Andy Diagram. Johnny Yen was delivered wonderfully by the whole band and Andy¹s new trumpet section over the songs climax really lifts the song to a new level. This song must have been done more than ten different ways down the years, each one as good as the next and that’s testament to how good a song it is.
Two songs from Seven then came into play to close the set. The first Born of Frustration which will always stand out as a James classic,whipped the crowd into a frenzy right up to Tim’s last ever unique vocal cry.
And then Ring the Bells. This song has hardly sounded better in its eleven year life. The song now builds up to a quick fire, intense conclusion with each band member giving their all up to the riotous ending.
Magical. Then, the band briefly leaving the stage before the first encore seemed to leave many fans in sudden realisation that this was all soon to come to an end – yes we all talk and hope for new beginnings but I don¹t for a minute suppose any fan will ever dream it will be as good as this again. And although few tears had already been shed by some fans, but it wasn’t over yet.
Adrian, Mark and Jim took the stage and began gently easing into the intro for Top of the World, a song which musically defines everything Tim says in the dreamy lyrics. But by now Mr Booth had made his way to the back of the arena and was singing his heart out in the company of many an adoring fan, all with their arms outstretched trying to get a touch of the person who had so many times touched them emotionally in the past. And it was fitting then that Saul was revealed up on a near stage balcony, playing his heart warming violin notes which often seem to leave the hardest of James fans moved to tears. Tim glared back up at the band he was leaving as the band played back to him and there was a real mutual appreciation for what the two had done for and with each other down the many years of worries and triumphs.
Then back on stage came Tim, Larry, Andy, Mike and Dave as James ended the encore with an epic nine man version of Sound. A song which could only be James was gifted Larry and Adrian¹s joint flashes of guitar, Andy’s magical trumpet calls, Mark’s ear piercing and futuristic keyboard effects and Saul and Jim’s wonderful acoustic reprise before the song built back up to a blazing wall of sound in which typical James fashion, music began to sift through the ever-growing cacophony created. Very special, very unique and altogether very James.
And once more, the band took the applause and ovation of the fans, but we knew they¹d be back. And they were, walking on together for the first and last time as ten members complete with Brian Eno once more. As Tim said to the fans “what do you want to hear?” this led to the only disappointment of the night. Maybe four or five fan requested songs from each James era would be played especially for the occasion? Well……no, that would have been the cherry on the icing on the cake as they say. To have heard such rare songs as What For, What¹s the World or Five-0 or even a b-side would have been nice. But as it were we¹d just have to settle for two of the best James songs ever!
Come Home was a celebration in itself sparked by Andy’s trumpet, Mark¹s keyboard line and Larry and Adrian both simultaneously bashing out their different guitar parts from over the years.
But no sooner had it ended when the opening keyboard line to Sit Down had quietly begun. Was this really it? Well unfortunately it was. As before in the tour, the song built up into the anthemic sing along it will always be remembered as. The band just loved every second of it and the fans never looked more animated in the whole night. Once Tim had finished the final chorus, the song was lengthened out just like it was in the early 90’s and here at this point there was never a bigger vibe or unity between the band and every fan. And we even got that typical James stage invasion as ten or more people joined the ten onstage members, making the occasion as lively and happy is it got.
Then the song stopped, the huge volume of cheering began and the band left their instruments to join together at the front of the stage one final time. The fans united in singing Sit Down and the night was truly a celebration. James must have stayed at the front of the stage for nearly five full minutes taking in what they thoroughly deserved from the fans. And now I was truly glad to be there.
But then they were gone and so were the fans – some in tears naturally, others expressionless like myself. Maybe I should have cried – I felt like I should be and there so wanted to be. James had played such a big part in my life and my growing up that I felt I deserved to be crying. But I couldn’t – partly because at first I was numb with it all and it was a bit much to take in. Though at the end of it all I realised why I wasn¹t crying like so many others ; I was happy. Happy for the band and happy it had all ended in such a perfect way. Most bands come and go without a trace and never get to play a concert like this. But James could not have left their fans any prouder.
History has never seen another band quite like them and the future will probably never conjure up anything as barmy, odd, complex and downright brilliant as James. Tim has now gone along with the likes of Andy, Paul, Larry, Gavan and less noticeably Danny Ram and as always the remaining members will return in some form of that we know. But this final celebration should be how we remember the name James. And why will we remember them? Well, quite simply to oppose what one certain journalist recently wrote, we will remember them because, they mattered!
Deciding to go to wembley on the very last moment, I was incredibly lucky (I’m getting used to this). Of course I could only get a seated ticket (and for a terrible spot, I’m afraid), but my dear friend Jayne managed to swap it for a standing ticket just a couple of hours before the show. 🙂
I tried to get to the standing area a while before Turin Brakes started, I wanted to be on the right side of the stage and as close to it as possible. I got lucky, once again finding the perfect spot right in front of Michael Kulas.
I was expecting some surprises for this special night, but I got much more than I expected. For starters they actually changed the setlist! 😉
Laid was a great song to begin with, people were singing and dancing along right from the start. It was fun to be in the middle of all those british fans (well, and also danish, german, and american), and everybody seemed to know almost every song.
I was crossing my fingers that James would play Waltzing Along, and it came right after Laid, with a remark from Tim: “A happy song for a happy moment!” I wasn’t so sure if this was a happy moment but, as the show went on, that’s how I felt. Tim was happy, Saul was happy, Michael was happy, Jim was happy. I saw Adrian smiling (he’s got a pretty nice smile!) and Mark too. Can’t talk about Dave though, he was a bit far and hiding behind his drums.
I’m not going to talk about all the songs of the show, but I tell you they were energetic, happy and the crowd loved every second of this show.
I was wishing they would play Top Of The World and they let it to the first encore. Only Mark, Jim and Adrian were on stage though, so when Tim started singing we were looking around to find where he was. And he was far in the back of the arena, in the middle of the crowd. I could only see him through the screens, but it seemed to me that the fans back there loved it, specially the ones who got to hold Tim’s hand (I bet they were in shock for hours!). When the violin part came, I wondered what was happening. Where was Saul? Could this be a recording? Noooooooooooooo. No way!!!! Saul was on the left side of the stage, on a high level, near the front of the seated places and not too far from the stage. I must say I enjoyed this “large stage”, including almost the whole venue, and the people who were close to Saul and Tim at that time must have appreciated it as well.
Higher points of the night: Andy Diagram, Larry Gott and Brian Eno and also the attitude of the band.
I had never seen Andy Diagram live and I loved it! He’s a “show man”, if you get my point, moving around the stage, playing with Tim, going further in the front, teasing the audience – he was brilliant!
As for Larry Gott, his best moment, in my opinion, was when him, Jim and Tim were playing the acoustic version of Protect Me. I don’t know if it was because of him, or just the song, but it was a magical moment. Oh yeah, and that chair he made looked pretty nice!
It was fun to see Brian Eno sharing the stage with the band he was working with for so long. I didn’t even know how he looked like, so I had to ask people who was that man when he got on stage. It was funny to see him trying to dance “à la Tim”, and Michael sharing the microphone with him in the song [Sometimes]“of the boy who wanted to be struck by lightening”. Actually I was very happy to see Michael back to his usual self, cheering up the audience, jumping around, singing, dancing and having fun. That’s exactly how I wanted to remember him as a part of James.
It was an incredible night. I lack the words to describe it. I felt amazed and happy, there were times when I stared at the band in amazement, a total admiration of the talent these guys have. I danced, I screamed, I yelled, I sang, I jumped around as I do when I’m happy. When it got to the end of Sit Down (the last song), the people were singing it back to the band, again and again and again. It felt like forever, it was a brilliant moment, maybe a way for us to say thanks to those fabulous musicians who mean so much to us. The band was happy and so were we. We had been on top of the world together, and it was great!
As a final remark, I have to say that James are a brilliant band, who wrote beautiful and powerful music. I was glad that I got to know the band and probably almost every single song that they’ve created. And some of these songs, like Sound and Johnny Yen, that were played that night have a characteristic that I haven’t found in songs from any other band. They build up in a crescendo, growing more and more and then, either they end in an extremely high moment, or they go back to a quiet place, as if there’s a moment to rest and then, maybe, they’re going to do it again. Let’s hope that whatever comes from James will be another high.
David Cheal, Daily Telegraph
THE departure of Tim Booth from his position as lead singer with James has not exactly shaken the pop world to its foundations. The Manchester-based band have been together for nearly 20 years and although they have won a sizeable following in that time, and have gained a reputation as one of the festival circuit’s most reliably entertaining acts, I suspect that the nation is not lying awake at night wondering how they will cope without Booth.
Nevertheless, what was impressive about this show (the final date on their UK tour, and therefore Booth’s last ever appearance with James) was the affection and esteem in which Booth is clearly held by the band’s fans: by the end of the night I even noticed the beginnings of a lump in my throat as the crowd clapped and thumped and sang the praises of this wiry, wired performer.
The night was also notable for a live appearance by Brian Eno, who, during a long association with the band, has produced several albums for them; he joined them on stage for a couple of numbers singing backing vocals. Live appearances by Eno are vanishingly rare – I last saw him with Roxy Music in (I think) 1973 – and here he behaved like a man who has suddenly found a new purpose in life, dancing in tight, twitchy little steps and singing the chorus to the hypnotic Sometimes with gusto. It was not what you’d expect from such a notoriously studio-bound creature – has a frustrated rock’n’roll frontman been lurking behind that benign countenance for nearly 30 years?
The show itself was pretty much what we’ve come to expect from James: lots of warm, melodic, churning epics, but also a couple of googlies tossed in to confound the punters (the crowd seemed bemused by the almost unlistenably frantic God Only Knows), followed by a final chance to sing along to Sit Down, the band’s anthem, which sparked off massed cavorting in the ranks.
Then, finally, it was farewell, and the noise was thunderous. Booth, who says his decision to quit was “intuitive”, is planning to pursue various creative projects, including music. I hope he relished his moment of glory, because it’s hard to imagine that he will ever again be feted so lustily by so many.
James Berry, Crud Magazine
It is a cliché, though when they’ve spent near on two decades skirting around them, or wriggling clean from their restraints with glittery snake-hips at any rate, it’s an allowance you’d expect as they make their final stand. But there really isn’t a single dry eye in this house tonight. For a man who’s made a career from dancing across imaginary minefields, Tim Booth – for it is he that’s leaving and he on whom our eyes are undoubtedly focused, as far as they can be – looks like he’s actually found himself in an emotional no man’s land for probably the first time.
With legions of elated unsuppressed fanatics before him and generations of band line-up around him, having just finished a burgeoning run through arguably and aptly the best version of commercial signature tune ‘Sit Down’ they’ve ever committed to a stage (slight tinkering audience-supported verse, pounding live chorus, stimulating climax – undoubtedly still a cracking song) he looks almost lost, drifting gracefully through every one of those final gig clichés.
Of course, it would have been easy for this final curtain call to melt amongst the mutterings of non-existent album sales, lost record deals, below capacity gigs and as a sum of all that, or maybe on top of it, the feeling that James’ peak, relevance and even reverence, was now nothing more than a fading speck confined to their background. But if this has to be a wake then everyone’ll be draped uniformly in trademark flower t-shirts, sat in regulation cross-legged salute, beaming with thoughts hooked only to the highest times. As accomplished as the last album ‘Pleased To Meet You’ was then, a consistent vintage return to form after the bitty ‘Millionaires’, for the occasion (save for a sturdy ‘English Beefcake’ and so so ‘Getting Away With It’) they choose wisely to ignore it. A memorable two-hour, 20 song best-of set, only made all the more worthy by the fact that they still miss half your favourites (no ‘Say Something’, no ‘Fred Astaire’, no ‘How Was It For You’!?), assures you can leave with only the right dynamite and decidedly off-kilter lasting impression that they surely deserve.
Because although these tunes may not stand comparatively alongside many of today’s scene-led trends, not only do they as a band seem like the last of a kind (I mean, who else is there that embodies their huge, sprawling, group-embodied, visibly heart-felt ambitions? Gomez maybe?), but the songs breath with individuality, more often than not beating a path to your raptured attention. ‘Sometimes’ remains the most beautiful storm, ‘Sound’ ruptures inspiringly from delicate to distinct and damning and ‘Come Home’ reminds of a time when they did skim closer to a scene, rumbling with colourful baggy delight. Harking back to an era when they were still eccentric electric folkies with Manchester blood running through their veins, the furious impassioned preaching of ‘God Only Knows’, the virtuoso build of powerfully stark ‘Johnny Yen’ and the stripped down acoustic ‘Protect Me’ see a couple more bald associates adding to the occasion.
Ex-guitarist Larry Gott (Tim: “When you leave James you lose your hair” ) and legendary producer and Mr Roxy Music, Brian Eno (dances like your dad), strike a chord with the audience, Larry especially, and at least give it more of a party feel. But tonight is all about Tim Booth. The way he howls vocal aerobics across the likes of ‘She’s A Star’, ‘Hymn From A Village’ and a divine ‘Top Of The World’ (performed from the back of the arena).
SetlistLaid / Waltzing Along / Sometimes / She's a Star / I Know What I'm Here For / God Only Knows / Vervaceous / Out To Get You / Getting Away With It / Destiny Calling / English Beefcake / Tomorrow, Johnny Yen / Born of Frustration / Ring The Bells / Top of the World / Space / Sound / Come Home / Sit Down
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A packed crowd on a cold Sunday evening in Glasgow. Given James recent lack of press, and record sales, I can’t quite believe how busy the SECC is. The big crowd could well be as a result of their show stealing T in the Park festival appearance in the summer.
The band appeared to open this evening with Say Something, but within seconds this has metamorphosized into Laid. They’ve only been on stage seconds and already James are doing what they do best; they’re improvising their way through. The perennial crowd pleaser Waltzing Along soon follows, with another storming Sometimes up next. An easy little tune, which has never failed to have an uplifting freshness despite it’s age. I had the pleasure of attending the previous Fridays show in Manchester, where I felt the opening 5 or 6 songs sounded like a band going through the motions.
Such feelings are redundant this evening, however, as James whip up the crowd with this opening mini-best-of set, which is welcomed by this evenings crowd.
This is a good solid opening, but things are shifted up a gear with the arrival of the magnificent Andy Diagram. A fantastic addition to the line up. God Only Knows is Andy’s first song, like so many other nights on this tour. When he begins, there’s a strange sense for us older fans that in recent years James have been very good, but when we are given these opportunities to hear Andy play again, they are so much better. It’s only when you hear Andy, that you realise that there has been something missing. For want of a better metaphor, Andy is the icing on a rather tasty cake. Kulas’s finest ever James moment for me comes during God Only Knows, as he is on superb form with the megaphone. With this expanded line up, James are much more creative, and flexible, and dynamic, and exciting.
Vervaceous, arguably the most disappointing song ever recorded for some hard core James fans, sounds so much better, and intense, and special, and energetic when played live. One of the finest James songs ever, and tonight is no exception with some great guitar work from Adrian as an added bonus. If only the audiences listened and got into it, rather than using this time as an opportunity to talk and go for a beer.
Out To Get You can’t match Friday’s MENA rendition (no Larry this evening), but is still one of the standout tracks, showing us just how versatile James are when they play live. Saul’s violin is beautiful. How many of today’s young rock and roll stars are as talented as this man?
Pleased to meet you has not been well represented on this tour, but tonight we are treated to Getting Away With It (which is pretty good), English Beefcake and Space (both are exceptional), but 99% of the audience have probably never heard the album before. That’s their loss.
On with the review. Andy adds more sparkling touches to Born Of Frustration, but especially on Johnny Yen. This sounds as fresh as I am sure it sounded when they jammed it out in a Manchester rehearsal room twenty years ago. Stunning. Ring the Bells doesn’t disappoint either.Again, some touches of Andy take this onto a new level.
Top of the World begins the encore, with Tim singing from the back of the arena. On his long walk back to the stage, the band take the opportunity to improvise, and take the ending off on a magical journey for a couple of minutes.
Sound is another standout track, before Come Home and that old English folk song end proceedings.
For me, James were on fire tonight. It’s only when you can hear James live, that you appreciate just how bad the current crop of bands are. James are unique, and bring so much passion, energy, and spirit with their music, that no one else manages to do. Other bands sound flat when compared to James. They were simply astounding this evening.
SetlistSay Something / Waltzing Along / Sometimes / Laid / I Know What I'm Here For / God Only Knows / Someone's Got It In For Me / Vervaceous / Protect Me / Out To Get You / Hymn From A Village / Johnny Yen / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Tomorrow / Born of Frustration / Ring The Bells / Top Of The World / Sound / Space / She's A Star / Come Home / Sit Down
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This was the best James gig for a very very long time. Marred, if that’s ever the right word to use with this band, by technical problems when Saul’s equipment was lost completely half way through the set, they proved once again that when they really want it, they still have the capacity to stun and astound that marks them apart from all their contemporaries. Adrian in particular was on fire adding movement around the stage to his undoubted playing talents.
From the first bars of Say Something, it’s evident that whatever had been affecting them before on this tour had been blown away. Maybe it was the announcement that James will continue after Tim removing any residual bad feeling or fear in the band, but they were functioning as a unit, as one, but without the constraint of fitting into a pattern. Waltzing Along, Sometimes, Laid and I Know What I’m Here For shot past, each imbued with a sense of urgency and the feeling of real power. Manchester loved it as my sore ribs from the barrier will testify.
Tim prefaced God Only Knows with the dedication of “a regurgitated James song for regurgitated older James fans”. There certainly wasn’t anything vomit-inducing about this track, Tim playing the preaching messiah in the improvised middle section, before Andy’s trumpet kicked in, adding to the already building melee.
Slowing things down, James swooped into Someone’s Got It In For Me, a song that benefits exponentially from the live treatment, building to a crescendo that was simply stunning in its power and emotion. Vervaceous followed suit and was rightfully given the respect it deserves by an educated Manchester crowd. James are, were and probably always will be in whatever form they continue, more than just a singles band and these two songs won over any doubters.
Most of the band now left the stage to be replaced by Larry Gott, guitar hero to the older masses of James fans. Tim introduced him to a rapturous response, cracking a joke about Larry’s self-designed chair requiring cushions. What followed next was a simply stunning acoustic version of Protect Me from Jim, Tim and Larry, with the two guitar partners gazing at each other past Tim throughout the song. Larry proved he had lost none of the unique style that made him so integral to James on Laid and before, adding little flourishes to a wonderfully poignant acoustic song.
Out To Get You followed, played by the 1993 line-up of Tim, Jim, Saul, Larry, Mark and Dave. Tears were shed around the arena as Larry strummed the stunning lines that made this song so close to the hearts of so many James fans and won over so many on the Best Of. His backing vocals took the song still further into the stratosphere.
Temporarily without Saul who had lost all power to his amps (and who, to his credit, handled it in true Jamesian fashion by wandering on and off stage, adding what he could), James burst into Hymn From A Village. Manchester went ape, proving what we’ve been telling the band for years that these older songs are not out of place in the set, Tim hammering out the lyrics like a man possessed with Larry’s guitar again taking centre stage. From folk-driven angst in front of a few hundred in 1985 to 16,000 hit-thirsty punters in 2001, the song sits proudly alongside anything James have ever written since.
And then it just got better. All the debate about the best-ever Johnny Yen was swiftly dismissed. Mike and Adrian returned and the stage was full with nine Jameses. Saul’s violin fought with Andy’s trumpet which fought with Larry and Adrian’s twin guitars with Kulas adding more shade to the sound. Dave beat the drums like a madman and Mark’s understated keyboards merely provided the framework that held the whole thing together. Tim strutted the stage, prowling, tracking down the band one by one and confronting them, forcing them to take it up a notch. Simply stunning.
Larry and Andy left and James 2001 launched into Getting Away With It, the band’s adopted theme tune and what a tune it is. Criminally ignored by the public (and Mercury if we’re going to name names), the song is a uniting rallying call from band to fans and they respond wildly.
Andy returns to add his trumpet flourishes to a massive possessed Tomorrow endowed with a power all of its own. Born of Frustration is huge, again the trumpet taking the song to new higher plains. Tim went walkabout stage right, climbing way into the first tier. It’ll look good on the DVD, but it’s a shame that by doing so, it took the attention away from a stunning band performance. Ring The Bells followed, this time with Tim firmly on the stage, and built again to a stunning cresecendo, the highlight being a rap by Andy over the closing guitar-fuelled section.
For the first encore, Jim, Mark, Adrian and Larry returned to play the opening bars of Top Of The World without Tim and Saul. The vocals came in and the lights spun round to reveal Tim high up in the seats from where he proceeded to sing the whole song. Saul came in with violin directly opposite in the arena to Tim.
As the two made their way back to stage, the band extended the intro to Sound with a superb piece of improvisation by Larry. Back to the full complement of nine, Sound was even more powerful than ever. A song of ten minutes plus has to maintain the interest throughout and James succeed tonight. The band stop playing to enable Jim and Saul a wonderful piece of interaction before building to a stunning climax.
Coming back for a second encore, Space is a strange choice to open it, but the lyrics have gained an extra poignancy given recent announcements and the power of the performance is simply stunning. She’s A Star follows and whilst ecstatically received doesn’t quite match the highs of the rest of the set.
Come Home sends the crowd in a heaving mass, the band ratch everything up and it’s like Madchester had never gone away.
So to the final song, Tim acknowledges Mark’s understated and often ignored contribution to the band by insisting the crowd listen to his elongated intro. Saul dashes off stage to drag Larry from the seats to join in. The first verse is minimalist with Tim and the crowd singing before the band crash in, sending the crowd wild. An extended ending with all nine on stage is a fitting end to a wonderful night and Tim’s long association with James in Manchester.
So you’ve probably worked out that I enjoyed this show. The problems of previous nights were simply blown away. Larry’s presence was an undoubted highlight and Andy’s contributions pushed the sound yet further. They added that extra dimension that, despite consistently outstanding performances from the band since 1997, has been missing. That in no way denigrates Adrian or Michael’s contribution to James, but James since 1997 have been a band rather than a collection of musicians. There’s a very fine line between the two and James stepped back over that line last night. How many bands can overcome such terrible technical problems and turn it into a success?
They still didn’t play What For though. Oh well, we can forgive them that.
It’s Thursday evening and we (my wife and I) are making our way from Co. Limerick in Ireland, for what will be the last James show that we will probably ever see. This is our fourth show together and my fifth (starting with the now fabled Alton Towers gig.) We flew in Friday morning and spent the day anticipating what would surely be their finest hour. We arrived at the MEN at about 8:30, just missing Turin Brakes, I wasn’t particularly upset by this, we were only there for one thing – to say farewell to the boys after many, many years.
They started with Say Something, one of their better songs, Tim really belted this one out, absolutely superb, followed by a string of their ‘best of ‘ hits, Waltzing along, Sometimes, a rather tame Laid (tame in that Tim didn’t go running around the stadium for it, as he had done the last couple of times I had seen them do it live.) A brilliantly triumphant IKWIHF followed by the gem God Only Knows – which is superb, and which had lost none of its intensity through the passing of the years. Someone’s got it in for me was next, which is a beautiful song, especially live, at this point my throat was starting to hurt from all of the singing. Vervaceous was hauntingly sad, and then we got to see Larry again. This was what I really wanted to see more than anything else, with Andy back it was the full Monty, all the boys back together, the version of Protect Me that they did together brought back all the old memories, With Jim, Tim and Larry on centre stage, it was very emotional, what a beautiful song and what a wonderful moment – actually hearing it live for the first time acoustically – ‘He can still play a bit’ mocked Tim afterwards, there was never any doubting it. It was fantastic to see the seven of them on stage again. Out To Get You was restarted after Larry wasn’t happy with the volume of his guitar and we all revelled in seeing them all together again. Hymn From a Village and Johnny Yen followed taking me back a long time – still very powerful songs and wonderfully executed.
Finally we got to hear some of the new stuff, Getting away with it showed us that James are still a force to be reckoned with, the music – simple yet effective. Tomorrow, BOF and Ring the Bells followed, giving us more of what James are all about, brilliant music with great intensity. Top of the world was done with Tim and Saul on opposite sides of the stadium, Saul’s Violin playing dreamy and sad; a superb performance which will look good on DVD. The band then treated us to what they are very good at. Sound! What a song this is live, I could have listened to the band all night playing this, Adrian and Michael providing the booming sounds, and Larry back to pick out the notes as Saul and Jim did their usual live improvisation, I will miss that song. We knew at this point that we were all running out of time, it seemed to me that the boys were enjoying it so much that we might be here all night, a final encore gave us Space, She’s a Star, a fitting Come Home before ending with Sit Down.
A brilliant performance and a fitting monument to a great band, I was delighted to seeall the cameras, I can’t wait for the DVD.
For the first half of the gig I couldn’t help but be sad, how could this all be ending, what would we do now? Sure James will still be there, but it will never be the same. We have been fortunate you and I. James have always been our little secret, I don’t care that they never got the acclaim that their music so richly deserves. If they had got that, which they were in real danger of doing around the Seven album, then I don’t think that any of it would be the same. James for me are what they are because they have never received the plaudits of the press. We the fans know what they are.
Above the sadness of the what the concert actually meant though, the music started to take over, absolutely no band can touch what James are able to give on Stage. I would like to thank the boys for all the memories. I wish Tim well for the future, and will keep an eye out for any new material. Any new James material will always be welcome and I look forward to that to.
One thing I would like to say is that with the release of the Manchester gig, I hope that they don’t cut it, or edit it. Give us everything, Warts and all. It would be a shame not to see how the band reacted to Saul’s equipment breakdown (Jim suggested that Saul could dance whilst he waited for the equipment to be fixed!) For me it would be terrible shame to cut any of it out. Thanks for everything and Good Luck to them all.
Seb Ramsey, Manchester Evening News
Tim Booth looks wistful as he says “Good evening, hometown, good evening our roots and support for so long – thanks for coming.”
And that’s as sentimental as the rhetoric gets.
James boasts one of rock’s most loyal fanbases and obviously nowhere more so than in Manchester. So it was hardly surprising that the Arena was packed to bursting for Booth’s swansong.
For many, not least the departing Booth, it was a poignant emotional occasion.
But it was also a good reminder of why this band have managed to go as far as they have.
Their set breathes the sort of variety and power that only a handful of acts can ever hope to muster.
Anthem after anthem bursts forth and the crowd sing along, eyes closed, hands waving.
They kicked off with Say Something and the soaring Sometimes. By the time they hit Laid and God Only Knows, the Arena was seething at its impressive best.
Booth’s dancing has always bodypopped a fine and entertaining line between the exultant and the absurd and this performance was no exception.
The rubber man was on fine form, gyrating and convulsing with his trademark abandon.
James have 19 years of material to go at and their final Manchester set chronicled the whole unorthodox journey, from folk oddities via the outskirts of Madchester to stadium-filling superstars.
Guitarist Larry Gott and trumpet player Andy Diagram drew big cheers from the crowd as they returned to the fray, swelling the band to nine and adding extra nostalgia to the romp.
A rash of technical glitches put violinist/guitarist Saul Davies out of action, sending the band scurrying for the pre-Saul crowd pleasers Hymn From A Village and Johnny Yen. Back to full strength and jumping 12 years forward, Tomorrow was as effusive as ever and Booth joined the crowd for the Born of Frustration singalong.
Top Of The World began two sets of encores with Booth and Davies mid-crowd, spotlighted and counterpoised below opposite balconies.
Come Home and Sit Down were a suitably rousing send-off, and the band walked to the front of the stage and waved goodbye.
Live is what James always did best. Tim Booth will be missed.
Whilst on the way to the MEN arena I was thinking what to expect would be it be G:mex of 1990 or 1993 would it rate as one of the best of the 16 shows I’ve seen? At this moment I don’t know, could it be one of the gigs to go down where you would have to say I was there? How would Larry play and Andy I did not know or care
My wife had a little smile on her face as she said to me “well enjoy, as this is the last one we will go to” I don’t know where this relief or whether she was a little sad. One of our first dates was to go to see James at Liverpool in 97. That night they played Out to get you and it seemed as they were playing it for us, I know they weren’t but that’s how they can grab you with the heart felt lyrics.
The band entered from behind a curtain and I had seen the arena in such a way and it was so different than the other shows, I knew that I did not want the night to end. James have been a part of me since late 1986 early 1987 when a work friend gave me a copy of Stutter then I was on a hunt to get the vinyl of the factory stuff.
The band seemed different to me, even though Larry and Andy were on stage during the show, this was not it, it came to me when Tim wanted to leave when Bob’s equipment broke, it was Jim went up to Tim and said something the Band stopped on stage to perform Hymn from a Village and Jonny Yen, Jim was smiling, yet all the band were smiling at first from some time. The thing which I could put my finger on was that they were happy and enjoying the moment.
The set started with Say Something, Sometimes and Laid this followed by God only Knows, this is what I can remember of the set list but the set list went out of the window with technical problems when Bob’s equipment broke. As I said Tim wanted to leave but the band played on, Just like on the Titanic!
The high light of the show for me was Top Of the World, when Tim and Bob on opposite sides of the arena held the crowd with Tim’s singing and Bob’s violin playing a magical moment.
The best song for me was Tomorrow played with a trumpet another first for the night.
James did two encores with the evening brought to an end with Come Home and Sit Down.
The band didn’t want to finish but they did 2.15minutes after starting the show. They left the crowd wanting more and if they could have played all night the crowd would have sung and danced and scream for more.
The best way to James to finish any show is people wanting more and this is what they did
I can’t believe it’s over but for the time being without Tim, but James will be James as the spirit will carry on as they did when Paul, Gavin, Larry and Andy left.
SetlistSay Something / Waltzing Along / Laid / I Know What I'm Here For / English Beefcake / God Only Knows / Protect Me / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Stutter / Vervaceous / She's A Star / Born of Frustration / Come Home / Tomorrow / Top Of The World / Sound / Out To Get You / Sit Down
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An amicable split? On tonight’s evidence, you have to question this. A set limited to 18 tracks and lasting little more than an hour and a half, one band member tantrum, virtual ignorance of the last album and the general feeling that some of the band would rather be somewhere else.
Tonight’s performance can almost be drawn straight down the middle – singles and non-singles.
The non-singles, in particular Vervaceous, Stutter, English Beefcake and Out To Get You – resonate with a vibrancy and urgency that characterise James greatest moments and their biggest strengths of improvisation and the sheer depth of musical talent that makes you and I keep coming back for more. Stutter and Vervaceous are augmented as ever by a stunning light show, with Andy Diagram taking us back to 1990 during Stutter wandering around the stage like a madman with a light, shining it on the roof and on the band as the sound built to its cresecendo. Out To Get You benefitted from a wonderful improvised ending as the song was thrown into the set spontaneously at the end.
Protect Me is performed wonderfully by Tim, Jim and Adrian acoustically, and the Birmingham crowd, with an odd exception, demonstrates that it can do more than dance along to the hits by listening attentively.
Andy Diagram once again made an appearance, even featuring on Tomorrow which ends the set. His presence adds new life to Born of Frustration and God Only Knows. Jaws visibly drop around as Born of Frustration reaches a trumpet-fuelled cresecendo.
Sit Down is pulled off wonderfully at the end, with a minimalist first verse and chorus, before Dave crashes in with drums and the rest of the band join in to a rousing elongated ending, with the crowd singing throughout.
The rest of the show was a little disappointing, James by numbers, playing songs they’ve played a million times before without adding anything new and exciting to them, the old James trademark. Tim is active enough, prowling the stage and throwing himself into the vocals, but James have always been about much more than just Tim. The crowd love it, because the songs are great songs. There’s nothing wrong with the performances per se, but a line from a famous ditty springs to mind : “If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor”.
Saul, obviously enraged by something, left the stage during Come Home and didn’t appear to add his traditional flourish to Top of the World and the first half of Sound. His anger did at least fuel the songs at the back of the set and build into them the emotion and power that James are famed for.
A little disappointing then, let’s hope by the time we get to Wembley, whatever is going on behind the scene is sorted out and we get to see the real James.
SetlistSay Something / Waltzing Along / Sometimes / Laid / I Know What I'm Here For / God Only Knows / Protect Me / Walking The Ghost / Hymn From A Village / Tomorrow / Space / Born of Frustration / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Destiny Calling / Ring The Bells / Someone's Got It In For Me / Sound / Out To Get You / Sit Down
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I finally arrived at the venue half an hour before James were due to take the stage, I missed most of Turin Brakes but from what I have heard of the band this is not a bad thing. The Telewest arena is a modern arena and not a bad venue apart from the little Hitlers running security.
I had read the reviews of the previous nights shows and wondered what tonight’s show would throw up.. Would Andy or Larry turn up, would they deviate from the usual “Best of” setlist by much. would they play any B-sides from their new B-sides album Ultra? I was anticipating a top show and knew James would not disappoint.
I was hoping they would kick off with Come Home, but not to be, they took the stage and almost straight away burst into Say Something, followed by Waltzing Along, Sometimes and Laid. A “Best of” start if I ever heard one, but I expected this and they did sound fantastic especially Sometimes. If these 4 tracks together did not get the crowd moving, nothing would, “I know what I’m here for” followed, although this is not one of my favourite James tracks it does sound good live, The crowd seemed to be enjoying it anyway.
A few of the crowd at the front were taking the mick out of Tim’s tea-cosy hat, He replied with “Are you questioning my fashion sense? Well it’s better than your shirt.”
God Only Knows took anybody old enough to remember the late 80s / early 90s shows on a time trip, The light show was amazing. The energy of the song sweeping around the arena like an elecrtic charge. Protect Me slowed things back down again.
For me the highlights of the night followed next, One thing I love about James is their ability to surprise, This was one such a moment. The opening haunting bars of Walking the Ghost struck up, I never expected this, and loved every minute of it. Gold Mother was the first James album I bought and the tracks from that era were what got me into them in the first place. A girl next to me was shouting for Hymn From a Village, It would be nice I said but I doubt it, as the words left my mouth they broke into it, I was in heaven. The last time I had heard this live was at Alton Towers. It still sounded as fresh as ever. Watching Saul, he seemed miles away playing for his life, Jim next to him just seemed to be enjoying the occasion and as relaxed as ever
Tomorrow dragged me back to my senses and Space even further. The crowd seemed a bit restless during Space probably because not many of them had heard it, although Getting Away With It got a good reception during this Pleased To Meet You mini phase. I was hoping they would play Fine but not to be… They finished the main set with Ring the Bells which got the crowd moving again.
This did not sound like a band on the verge of a major split. Tim’s leaving just left my mind as I was swept away with the evening till they decided to bring it back to me. They arrived for the first encore and Someone’s Got It In For Me. Tim’s singing was amazing, this was one of the best live songs I have ever heard, the emotion and power in Tim’s voice was incredible. While he was singing I thought how can a band this good not get the recognition it deserves and just disappear into the night, even if they get a new lead singer and or a new name they will not be the same band. An epic version of Sound followed which echoed that thought even further..
They came back on after a very short break and Out To Get You, the crowd were restless but patient, waiting for the inevitable Sit Down. It would have been funny if they had not played it to be honest, but probably cruel as half of the crowd seemed to wait all night for Sit Down alone.
Anyway just as they were about to break into it, Tim stopped proceedings, “Can’t we start this with a different intro?” he asked the band. They looked at him and each other for a few seconds, not seeming to know what to do. This was a surreal moment that seemed to last forever till Tim sang the first line himself with no music. Then the crowd joined in, then the band. This was the liveliest I had seen the crowd all night. The people in the seats even decided to move and it tied up the night nicely. It seemed to be over too quick and that was it – the band were gone.
On reflection this was a special gig for me. The Gold Mother tracks and Hymn From a Village made it something else. The crowd was not the wildest in the world but seemed happy enough. The setlist was mostly expected but the inclusion of certain unexpected tracks was a nice surprise. No Larry or Andy was a disappointment and I wished they had played Come Home or Top of the World but you can’t ask for everything can you?
I have been to many James gigs over the years and this was not the best I’ve seen but it was a great performance. The band were in good form and Tim’s voice exceptional and the fact they played Hymn From a Village made the ticket price worth it alone. It’s a shame that all good things must come to an end, and who can replace James as the best live act around? Your guess is as good as mine. No British groups come close. I am just glad I have seen them play live. Every gig I have seen has been unique and I have some fantastic memories of some very special nights.
SetlistSay Something / Sometimes / Laid / Senorita / English Beefcake / Tomorrow / Vervaceous / I Defeat / Come Home / Space / God Only Knows / Born of Frustration / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Ring The Bells / Top Of The World / Waltzing Along / Sound / Sit Down
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Dave Simpson (The Guardian)
Tim Booth’s recent decision to walk away from fronting James after 19 years should be viewed as a rare example of a rock star behaving with true dignity. Despite their 1998 Best of album selling 1m copies, the band’s last two studio albums – 1999’s Millionaires (arguably the best of their career) and this year’s Pleased To Meet You – fared inexplicably badly. When Mercury Records dropped them after a 10 year relationship, the writing was on the wall, but the number of “classic” groups that are lingering on or reuniting still throws Booth’s decision to quit into stark perspective.
Fans of many different ages are crammed into this warm-up for the final arena shows. James boast one of rock’s most loyal fan bases, and could still have made a very comfortable living as a touring band. As we line up to hear the songs for one last time, the gig has a surreal atmosphere: part funeral, part wake.
But James were never straightforward and the set list reflects their strange trajectory from oddball New Order support act to 1990s stadium giants. Curiously though, there are no songs from their early Factory Records period. Come Home blasts us back to 1990s Madchester; Say Something and Sometimes to the Eno-produced days of chart ubiquity. These songs tug at the heartstrings, and make James success seem all the more remarkable – this is a band that took mental illness on to Top of the Pops.
There was always something of the underdog about James though. They battled industy shenanigans, line-up upheavals, physical problems and personal turmoil, their determination reflected in the hopeful song Tomorrow. The crowd sing along, eyes closed. For years, James provided a precious rock to cling to for the multitudes who felt similarly distressed and alienated by the world.
Booth used to resent the way the press depicted him as a vegan and meditating Buddhist, but now, in vest and skull cap, he looks very much the part, which must afford him some wry amusement. He is subdued for the first half, but grows exuberant as the power of the songs carries him away. James close with the colossus Sit Down and then the seven-piece band walk to the front of the stage and wave goodbye, History will remember them kindly, a uniquely spirited rock band that never knew disgrace.
I’m just so glad that it wasn’t my last james experience. The night was beset by technical problems which didn’t help but if ever there was a band going through the motions then it’s this band. Don’t get me wrong, there were magical moments. Ring The Bells and Sound set the pulse racing just like the olden days. Top Of The World was just gorgeous and Sit Down swaggered and throbbed like the anthem that it is.
I’m going to get hammered for what I’m going to say next but I’ll say it anyway. I was there in 1990 at the G-Mex, there in 1992 at Alton Towers and there for those wonderful ‘Best Of’ shows in 1998 amongst mnay others. James last night weren’t fit to be mentioned in the same breath. I know that people can’t help when they got into the band and I hope everyone enjoys the shows but it’s not the same. Only Tim seemed to really care about putting on a show and his voice is still fantastic.
The james of 2001 still piss all over most of their contemporaries, just not from the height that they once did. The technical problems didn’t help and I’ve never seen a sound engineer as pissed off as the guy last night. It ruined the first 5 songs. The other major disappointment of the evening was that the band walked on 10 minutes late and the 2 songs dropped were What For and Protect Me.
I’m going to 3 of the last 5 shows and my only hope is that at least one of them contains some of the old magic. I shan’t be holding my breath.
Gaz Shann (We Are Leeds)
Arriving slightly late Turin Brakes (ed note – it was a band called Haven) had already started their set. Plenty of fans were watching but it was obvious most were here for only one thing.
The atmosphere built up quickly as the lights dropped and out came James for maybe their last ever appearance in Leeds.
The sound was noticeably better than last time and Say Something sounded very clean although Tim hardly stretched the vocal towards the end which is usually the highlight of the song for me as he sings over the “Say something”. Sometimes had it’s usual power and I for one was pleased they chose to play it tonight. Then Laid kicked in and was superb as usual but was spoilt slightly by some idiot turning the main lights to the venue on. Senorita has never been as good since the 5 night stand concert but Beefcake quickly made up for it and has to one of the best James songs of the last 5 years.
A few surprises over the next collection of songs such as God Only Knows and I defeat (which Tim said they had never played before – but I swear I’ve seen it live before). These both sounded great with a lighthearted moment where Tim introduced Kulas as a late replacement for Sinead O’Conner.
A powerful ending to the main set showed to everyone just how much the band will be missed, BOF, Ring the Bells and getting away with it all messed up, just blew the crowd away and left the crowd begging and shouting for more.
Predictably they returned to a heroes ovation. Top of the World and Sound two prime example of why James are the best live act around followed by another exit before a rousing rendition of Sit Down after they had tricked everyone by playing the opening sequence to How was it for you. The place erupted on completion and Tim said his final farewells to Leeds.
A great set, missing ‘Shes a Star’ which was mentioned by many of the way to the exits (still they can’t play everything) and I think the set had something for everyone, The band obviously enjoyed it and they are leaving a huge gap in the music industry as they wind down the band. Many people we talked to tonight didn’t even realise Tim was leaving and many hadn’t bought the Pleased to Meet You album but had Millionaires. It begs the question of whether the band would be in this position if the Mercury had handled them better.
But on a positive note a great night, superb atmosphere and an excellent performance.
Roll on the rest of the tour…..
SetlistSay Something / Sometimes / Laid / Senorita / English Beefcake / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / She's A Star / Space / Vervaceous / Johnny Yen / Come Home / God Only Knows / Born of Frustration / Ring The Bells / Protect Me (acoustic) / Tomorrow / Sound / Out To Get You / Sit Down
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So the scene was set for the first show on the final tour. Turin Brakes had performed an intense set from their The Optimist LP to a generally appreciative reaction despite sections of the crowd getting restless awaiting the main event.
Lumbering on to a deep musical intro tape, James kicked into the trio of Laid tracks – Say Something, Sometimes and Laid bringing the crowd to heaving life. Sometimes in particular had lost none of its evocative power, aided as ever by Geoff Buckley’s awesome light show.
Difficult as ever, James then proceeded to three tracks from the recent Pleased To Meet You album. Senorita, the great single that never was, saw Tim throwing shapes with his arms and a real power and emotion in his voice. The crowd were sadly a little more subdued, giving a clue as to why James star, at least in commercial terms, so in ascendancy with the Best Of has dipped so dramatically recently. English Beefcake, a fan’s favourite if you read the websites, meant very little to some of the audience. The band’s near faultless performance of a seriously complex piece of music made this one of the highlights of the evening.
Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) made its claim for inclusion on any Son of Best Of that Mercury will try and fleece us with in future, a song that demonstrates the unique power in performance that defines James live. The audience reaction was delirious.
As the opening bars of She’s A Star rang out, Tim moved stage right to the speaker stack from where he proceeded to sing the whole song. Saul, looking like a bedraggled Mark Owen, sparked into life, making use of the space vacated by Tim.
But that was just a tease. Tim informed s that they were going to ‘get musical’ as the opening bars to Space resounded. Unfortunately, this was one of the evening’s more disappointing tracks, the song was played too slow and despite Tim’s passionate and heartfelt vocals, the song didn’t set the crowd alight.
Vervaceous certainly did, despite the tossers who think a slow song is an excuse to try and sing Sit Down over the top of it. This song typifies all that is so special about James live, showcasing the musical talent of the band as they leap up and dip down around Tim’s vocal line. An elongated end section got the audience clapping as well. A real success.
Enter Andy Diagram, the multi-talented and much-missed trumpet player. Whether most of the audience knew who this was is debatable, but he made his mark very early in Johnny Yen, fleshing out the sound with his unmistakeable trademark. For all those who debate the best version of Johnny Yen, you’ve not heard it properly until you’ve heard it with trumpet.
Come Home came next and proved sadly to be a damp squib. At its best blasted out at full intensity at one end of the set or the other, it’s one of the best tracks James have. Tonight’s performance is a little too laidback. The crowd, unsurprisingly, loved it.
With Andy on board, God Only Knows made a most welcome return to the setlist, having lost none of its power and potential for improvisation since its last airing. Again, the lights just added to the mayhem on stage, like we’d be transported back to 1991-2. Kulas added megaphone-fuelled backing vocals for extra effect.
Born of Frustration followed suit, making me wonder how this song has survived so long without its defining trumpet sound. The crowd hollered the woo-hoos back at Tim. Ring The Bells, still replete with its What’s The World intro, followed suit with Andy joining in on vocals and Dave and Mark in particular on fine form.
And that was it for the main set.
Tim came back out for the first encore accompanied by just Jim and Adrian for a beautifully eery version of Protect Me for “those who’ve been following us for a long time”, those of us who would have loved at that point for them to delve deeper into their past but never mind. Protect Me was beautiful.
The rest of the band came back out and fired in Tomorrow which saw Tim climb up on the crowd barrier and perch precariously over the front few rows without missing a line. Quite how he manages that is beyond me.
As Sound opened Tim implored the seating areas to get up and dance. Andy came back on stage and the crowd went into a frenzy as the band once again produced a wall of improvised noise so powerful as to make the hairs on the back of the neck stand up. And then they were gone again.
Out To Get You opened the second encore and given this is his last chance to do so, Tim told us the mental hospital story one more time. Its inclusion on the Best Of has made this one of James best-loved songs and this was reflected in how the crowd sang it back to Tim. It was played a little too quickly for my liking tonight, but noone else seemed to mind.
So one more to go, and no surprises as to what was next. Despite Saul’s protestations that they weren’t going to play it, Tim’s comment was “it’s cliched but we have to do it”. Opening with what sounded like the backing tape of the Apollo 440 mix before Mark segued into the gorgeous piano effect of the 1989 original, the song was a glorious mess, the audience singing half the second verse without Tim. It wasn’t stretched out as it could have been, but noone seemed to mind. Yes, it was cliched, but it is one of the greatest pop songs ever written.
So overall impressions? A solid gig, not James best, but also far from their worst. And as Tim says in the programme, an average James gig is something else. There was little mention of Tim’s departuere so things didn’t get too sentimental. Andy’s return was most welcome, adding more body and shading to the sound and Dave and Mark particularly warmed to having their old mate back with them. The setlist did lack a little in ambition (would a What For or Hymn From A Village really have sounded out of place?) but we can forgive them that (Message to band : that doesn’t mean you don’t have to play them!).
In a week’s time, it’ll all be over and I don’t think that’s quite sunk in yet, for us and for them.
December 2001, by PJ Anderson, © City Life
AS JAMES PREPARE FOR THE LAST EVER HOMETOWN GIG WITH LEAD SINGER TIM BOOTH, PJ ANDERSON TALKS TO THE FRONTMAN ABOUT 20 YEARS OF JAMES, THE PROBLEMS WITH CELEBRITY CULTURE, AND WHAT TIME DOES NEXT,
It’s not unusual for James to come home. It’s even the title for one of their biggest hits from the height of Madchester. But this Christmas, their almost annual date at the M.E.N. Arena will feel different. Because it’s their last. At least their last with Tim Booth and there’s not many who can imagine James without Tim Booth.
Frontman of James since they formed in Manchester in 1982, Tim released a statement last month saying he had decided to leave the band ‘after much deliberation’ having realised it was the ‘right time’ and he was leaving ‘on a high’.
James originally signed to Factory Records in 1983 and following their debut ‘Jimone EP’, their second release ‘Hymn from a Village’ topped the indie chart early in ’85. They then moved to US label Sire and released their debut album Stutter in ’86, including the live favourite ‘Johnny Yen’. But the more to Sire proved a mistake, the second album Strip-mine was delayed and the relationship between band and label soured. The band released a live album One Man Clapping on their own label in early ’89 before signing to Fontana. Their first album for the new label, Goldmother, shot the band to a new level of fame, spawning hits like ‘Come Home’, ‘How Was It For You?’ and their biggest hit in a re-release (and it has to be said, a watered down version) of their 1989 single ‘Sit Down’. This party-time classic eventually reached number 2 in March ’91, held off the top spot by Chesney Hawkes.
Subsequent albums, the trumpet heavy Seven, the Brian end Laid (arguably their best) and Whiplash, saw the band reach lofty heights and super stadium stardom. All of them went top ten with singles bouncing around the top 40, before a Best of compilation and Millionaires raised their profile once more. The band settled into a routine of short arena tours each December, coupled with a couple of festival dates, and released their last album Pleased to Meet You, in July this year.
So Tim, why quit now?
“Because it felt the right time. I honestly feel as if we’ve just made our memorable album ever. And Brian Eno says it’s the best album he’s ever worked on…”
Did you get that in writing?
“He said it in a Japanese magazine…”
Tim claims that he nearly left four years ago, and even alluded to the fact in a song. It’s true that James have never had it particularly easy. Some of their financial disasters were legendary, even at the height of their stardom. But when I put it to Tim that he actually enjoyed being a rockstar – he sidetracks slightly with his response; “In 1989, after reading Colin Wilson – who I no longer like incidentally – he said that the only regret he ever had was not taking full advantage of all the sexual opportunities offered to him. And I thought – why wasn’t I doing the same? And so for three or four years that’s exactly what I did…”
What I was alluding to was that James, and Tim especially, seemed to revel rather than repel the limelight and rock’n’roll superstar status – behaviour that seemed to equally repel and attract potential fans, making James more likely to inspire a passionate ‘love em or hate ‘em’ response than most other Manchester bands.
“Rockstar is a dirty word where I come from, so it’s difficult,” is Tim’s explanation of his sensitivity with regard to the whole subject. But there were, undoubtedly, moments when Tim would bask in the adoration. This he does concede; “When I’m looking at the audience,” he breathes, “I’m just in… ecstasy at some points. It’s because what happens is, you play your songs to people and their appreciation and enthusiasm lifts you to another level. The audience is like your battery. It can look like a rockstar thing, but when you become one with them, it’s a state of bliss.”
No-one can deny that James’ gigs almost seem like rallies, even worship. “For me that’s a mistake that an audience can make; in associating that feeling with that individual or with the band. That’s the problem with idolisation in pop music, or in celebrity. You know – we live in a culture where celebrity is probably the highest aim of the culture, and it’s got worse and worse over the last 20 years. Actually, it doesn’t matter how cheap what you’re peddling is, if you’re famous, you have an immense currency in this culture. It’s bullshit.”
And Tim’s keen to remind us that the audience was far from one homogenous mass: “I wouldn’t have the same judgement because I used to love the fact that hard men could come and watch this skinny guy who, in their world, probably looked like a faggot, singing pretty sensitive songs about self-doubt and self-condemnation and they would sing along with the lyrics. I am not an obvious candidate for them to accept in their world.
Tim as known for his infamous electrocuted-whole-body-wave dancing, not that he’s the first to feel Shamanic on stage. Now he’s even teaching ‘Creativity’ at Manchester Met, a system where dance and meditation lead to a trance state. It’s a reminder of Tim’s intense creative mind, which some might say borders on genius, and others, self-destructive extremes, “I wrote ‘Johnny Yen’, as part of me had swallowed the myth,” he agrees in part. “Some of me still can be a sucker for that myth.”
“I was convinced I’d go mad before I got to 30,” he continues. “I was convinced of it. When I got to 30, and realised I hadn’t, I was very surprised. I had some very strange psychotic states, but now I know how to ride them.”
So how scared are you of riding this one out? “I was scared about telling the guys,” he concedes. “But I was more scared about what the hell I was going to do; I had nothing to jump into – no other safety net. It was really… Oh my God!’”
Many would assume that the world is Tim’s proverbial oyster after the success James have enjoyed, but the order for the Lear jet hasn’t been processed just yet. “It’s easy,” he says, “for people to look at the history of James and say we should have been as big as U2… as if we somehow failed. I don’t see it like that. We’ve had a 20-year-career. We’ve made not one album I’m not proud of.”
So then, is Mr. Booth looking back fondly, or in anger?
“Some bands get one or two good albums, and then they burn out with drugs or alcohol,” he finishes. “… or too much money. I don’t think we’ve done that and nor do I live in some projected bliss bubble – that’s how I see it.”
Not many bands can fill a venue the size of a small town.
With round about 18,000 people turning up at Manchester Evening News Arena to see the last concert with band JAMES it is really the best send off a group can have. As Tim Booth announced that he is leaving the band as the singer, many now assume that the band James is to end their 19-year career. In conversation with MICHAEL KULAS, guitarist and backing vocalist of the band, he does not rule out that the band might still go on.
We meet after the gig, which was recorded for a live CD and DVD/video to be released next year. Despite some technical glitches with guitarist/violinist Saul Davies’ equipment, the show was a real success. After two call-backs and a six songs encore, this was the band’s way of saying goodbye. Even if Michael is a late-comer in the band, he didn’t feel pushed out by the re-appearances of former members Larry Gott and Andy Diagram. “It felt good to see the band still making great music together and it also felt good to be a part of that. Obviously, to be five guitarists up on stage, that was a bit strange, but this gig wasn’t about the present James, it was James’ past as well” said Kulas after the gig. It is hard not to talk about the eminent split up of the band. Kulas has some things planned, but as he is wrapped up in playing with James, he is uncertain what he will do in the future.
Canadian-born Michael Kulas, joined the band in 1997 after having met Saul Davies in Toronto some years earlier. Davies produced Kulas’ first solo album “Mosquito” in 1994. Now living in Scotland, Kulas has plans for a third album with most of the songs already written . “ The songs have been written whilst I was recording with James for the “Pleased to meet you” album”, Kulas says, ”but it is going to be different than the other two albums I’ve done. My second album “Another Small Machine” was recorded in a small cottage during a short space of time, but this one will probably not be done that way. I think it is important to find a producer that you trust and someone whose opinions you value. Working with Brian Eno was like that.”
While writing songs, Kulas often finds that it is easy to get your mind into a certain “headspace” as he calls it. “That is why it is vital for me to get away a bit from what I am doing at the time. I must admit that I sometimes feel like my creativity has been drained a bit since I joined James. But as I will take some time off until February, I will be able to figure out what I want to do. I’ll probably put a band together here in the UK. Who with? Well, let’s say I’m not ruling out any former James members.”
As the subject of musical moulds and set ideas comes up, Kulas has a lot to say. “I do feel that it’s time for the music industry to get shook up a bit like when Nirvana first came out. The sound that followed that has had a major impact on so many people. Now, with the likes of S Club 7 and Steps, there is a risk of that not happening. But at the moment there is just such a big back catalogue of great music, it’s a shame that a band such as The Strokes isn’t capable of doing something original with it. There is really no excuse for a band nowadays to sound exactly as something thirty years ago.”
British pop rockers James have officially split. The band parted from their UK Mercury label Fontana Records in September this year. This was followed by vocalist Tim Booth’s announcement at the end of October that after nearly two decades James’ December tour dates would be his last with the band. That tour ended last night (12/10) at London’s Wembley Arena. The band were best known in America for their 1993 Gold record Laid, a collaboration with Brian Eno. “We’ll never say never [re-form], but we’re going to wait until the dust has settled,” says drummer David Baynton-Power.
Dear James People,
I’m sure you’ve all heard the news that Timothy is leaving, and I know this will have had all of us reaching for our Kleenex and wondering what is going to happen next. There’s no need for me to state the importance of Tim’s contribution to James over the past twenty years, and I don’t want to downplay the effect of his leaving, but in our true bloody-minded style, James will continue. The history of this band has been a battlefield of near disasters overcome by a passion and self belief bordering on arrogance, and an unstoppable determination that’s pulled us through the very worst of times…and here we go again!
It’s difficult for me to give exact details as there is a lot we’ve not decided yet, but rest assured, you haven’t seen the last of James, and I think we’ve got one or two surprises in store for you.
This just leaves me to thank Tim, and wish him all the very best for the future.
Enjoy the rest of the tour and see you in the new year,