SetlistCome Home / Isabella / Born Of Frustration / Curse Curse / All The Colours Of You / Walk Like You / Sit Down / Beautiful Beaches / Laid / Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) / Sound
More Information & Reviews
Read the review at EvenTheStars.co.uk.
She’s A Star / Dear John / Move Down South / Catapult / Ring The Bells / Come Home / Interrogation / PS / Just Like Fred Astaire / What For / Surfer’s Song / Bitch / Curse Curse / Sometimes / Sound / Attention / Moving On / Nothing But Love
James’ summer season of gigs moved on to Sheffield for the opening night of the Music In The Gardens festival set in the picturesque surroundings of the Botanical Gardens on the outskirts of the city. In pouring rain, James delighted the picnic-toting crowd with a set heavy on recent number 2 album Girl At The End Of The World but with enough, but not all, of their big hits for everyone. Support came from Sheffield’s next big thing The Sherlocks.
It’s seven o clock when The Sherlocks take to the stage, unfeasibly early, but as their set progresses the venue does start to fill up and people get themselves up off their picnic mats and deckchairs to take a closer look at one of the country’s hottest tipped bands. To be fair to them, they’re on a bit of a hiding to nothing tonight – the £45 ticket price probably deprives them of much of their local teenage fan base that has carried them to the point where they’ve booked a huge tour in September in venues like The Ritz in Manchester and the sound, toned down for the residential area around the gardens, doesn’t help their full-on adrenalin-charged tales of growing up, falling in and out of love that have won them so many fans.
What’s reassuring though is that they don’t let this get to them. Kiran has developed into a much more dominant and confident front man than when we last saw them – and they display that cocksure assurance in what they’re doing it that tells you a band is ready to make the next step. Despite the hand they’ve been dealt, they still deliver a set full of power and passion – songs like Last Night, Escapade, a new one called Candlelight, Heart Of Gold, Live For The Moment and the closing Chasing Shadows suggest that they might emerge from the shadows of the city’s more famous sons and take the undoubted adulation they have here to the rest of the country.
It’s already started raining by the time James take to the stage and whilst we’ve been drowned at shows before (Porto 2014, Hardwick 2015), it’s not quite at those sort of levels so is more of an irritant than a trigger to let go and lose yourself in the ensuing carnage. The first few songs are marred by the sound as well; the venue set up is ill-equipped for a band of James’ scale and size if we’re being honest, but the FOH sound man more than earns his corn because after three songs he’s made the best of the cards he’s been dealt with and we can hear the separation between instruments and a great mix and disaster is averted.
They open with She’s A Star performed semi-acoustically with Adrian on cello and Tim dedicates to Nicola Sturgeon as the only politician who knows what she’s doing. Dear John bears the brunt of the aforementioned sound problems but still comes out the other side triumphant just about. Move Down South turns the heat up a little, even if lyrically the tales of deserts being drilled out in the drought possibly not quite connecting with a Sheffield audience with rain running down their foreheads. There’s no concession to the possibility that this might be more your greatest hits festival type crowd as they then go into Catapult and Tim makes his first venture down to the barrier despite the rain that has the band set back on the stage to avoid electrocution.
The crowd really comes alive as they strike up into Ring The Bells and Come Home; the rain becoming an irrelevance as people let loose and the band look as if they’re being fuelled on by the reaction they’re getting. Interrogation is a dark, claustrophobic song, but one that feels quite fitting in these very strange times in which we’re living, and as the rain starts to hit home harder as the band reach an improvised section that lifts the song to its conclusion, we’re all uplifted by the spontaneity and the whirlpool of energy they’re creating. James 2016 feels fresher, more invigorated than they have done for a long time and even the austerity of the sound set-up can’t disguise that as the sound man is performing miracles by this point.
Tim stops to tell us about the safety pin campaign to show support for fellow Europeans and those from the rest of our planet that are being subjected to attack from the uneducated fascists that are emboldened by the country’s ridiculous referendum vote to express their hatred and bigotry that angers any right-minded person (our words not his). Anyone who doesn’t get this political and socially conscientious side to James, which has always been there, doesn’t get the band.
PS is nothing to do with that, as Tim deadpans, but it is possibly the highlight of the evening. It’s far from an obvious (or even sensible) choice for this type of event, but rather than get lost in the open air, it feels like Saul’s violin and Adrian’s slide bounce off the trees and envelop us with their beauty. Things are kept low-key with two more semi-acoustic songs; Fred’s transformation from soaring love-struck ballad into an acoustic bass and guitar led folk beast is complete whilst What For and it’s edgy, always on the edge of breakdown delivery is a real genuine throwback to a time when the band were on the cusp, riding a wave that the music press were ignoring as they are now.
It’s then back to the Girl At The End Of The World for two more songs. Surfer’s Song, which Tim tells us is about watching the surf and gay marriage, has been the real revelation from the album when played live. It encapsulates the raw vigorous energy of the record in its four minutes perhaps more than anything else on it. Tim comes down to the barrier and goes surfing and there’s a worrying moment where it looks like he’s thrown up in the air and left to fall, but he manages to just about recover and make his way back on a sea of arms and held up mobile phones. That rumbling belligerent opening section to Bitch is made for more powerful set ups than this one, but having retired further back where the sound is less impacted, it also has that vitality that you wouldn’t expect from a band of this vintage. Curse Curse has a similar impact.
Sometimes, always appropriate when you’ve got rain dripping off your forehead into your eyes, is an absolute triumph. It feels like it might just be the one song that they could never drop from their set such is the communion it ignites in the crowd singing that line “sometimes when I look in your eyes, I can see your soul.” It goes into Sound which again battles the odds and wins, Andy appearing down on the barrier with bright red trumpet urging the masses on to lose themselves further in the music, not that any invitation is needed.
Attention completes the main set. Tim tells us it might be a new song, but “it’s a fucking good one” and it is indeed. It has to be to keep its position at the end of the set and tonight, like at so many of the shows, the audience get it from the slow build to the dramatic dropdown and the song slowly building back in aided by a thousand pair of clapping hands. It might not quite get the impact of the lights as it does indoors, but it’s still potent, powerful and final confirmation that they’re still a force to be reckoned with.
Never content with just doing the obvious and eschewing so many easy choices (Sit Down, Laid, Say Something, Tomorrow etc etc), the encore is very much about the here and now. Moving On is particularly poignant for Tim as his mother, whose death the song is about, spent her final days not too far from here whilst Nothing But Love seems to have inspired a new “dance”, the swaying from side to side, arms around the person next to you in a sign of coming together in celebration is adopted at least where we’re stood. It’s the final proof that this band, whatever grouping they might get lumped into by the laziness of the music press, is one of the here and now not some heady bygone era.
The beaming smiles on the drenched crowd as they stream out of the park rain rolling down their cheeks tells its own story – a joyful uplifting night despite the weather and despite the sound which could have blighted the evening had it not been for the unsung heroes that make evenings like this seem like they run like clockwork.
James played She’s A Star, Dear John, Move Down South, Catapult, Ring The Bells, Come Home, Interrogation, PS, Just Like Fred Astaire, What For, Surfer’s Song, Bitch, Sometimes, Sound, Attention, Moving On and Nothing But Love.
Sheffield, 16th April 2013 – a gig that is James in a nut shell. A ballsy set list, more evidence of that tireless desire to keep evolving and challenging themselves, and proof once again of their unfailing ability to shoot themselves in the foot.
They open up with a blistering salvo of Waltzing Along, Sound, Ring the Bells and Seven. Structurally each remains pretty true to its studio version (Sound being the exception), but as with so many James songs, in the live arena they become completely different beasts – more energetic and forceful. Larry has clearly got a lot to do with that and not for the first time I’m struck by just how much he has changed and developed his contribution to these songs over the years. As a long-time wannabe guitarist, it’s intriguing to watch him go about his work.
It’s a euphoric way to kick off, but at the same time I can’t help thinking “there are two hours to fill here……this is going to dip, surely”. And I’m right. Dream Thrum is just too stark a contrast to work and the chatter levels rise audibly. It’s followed by Of Monsters and Heroes and Men – easily one of my top 10 James songs – although somehow I’m disappointed when the choir isn’t there to add the layered vocals that made it so spine-tingling on the orchestra tour. Dust Motes and Space come next and both are done excellently, although being honest neither has ever been a favourite. I also can’t help noticing the effect that four lesser known songs in a row has had on the atmosphere. It’s pretty flat and for the first time in 23 years I find myself seriously questioning their judgement.
Next up is Interrogation, a new one, which from memory has an unconventional structure and musically evokes memories of their more spiky stuff from the mid 80s. Work in progress for sure but encouraging nonetheless. Five-O follows and has been given a new dimension with the violin intro which works really well. It builds and builds and is yet another example of how what you hear on record with James is very rarely on a par with what you are treated to in the live environment.
But by now we’re at six songs with no single and there’s no question that it’s showing in the crowd. For large sections around me it’s become a night out to have a natter with friends whilst some music plays in the background. Fred Astaire is therefore welcomed like an old friend (although personally I would have preferred the stripped back version as opposed to the full band one), but the momentum is halted again by Medieval – ironic given its rhythmic nature – after which is new song Moving On, which I like, but perhaps not as much as some of the forum/Twitter chatter suggests I should. It sounds, dare I say it, a bit like a b-side at this stage, but I’ve learnt not to be too judgemental with this band when it comes to new material, so let’s give it time.
Whiteboy is evidently not recognised by most of the crowd, although for me will always be welcome in any James set. It also marks the end of the ‘difficult’ part of the set and from here on in it’s singles all the way. Six of them in fact, and they’re all celebratory and uplifting. The only blemish is the attempt to orchestrate the audience participation in Sit Down (no, no, no!) but that aside it’s a fitting crescendo.
So in summary, let me just reiterate that I adore this band because of the risks they take, because they’re not a greatest hits machine, because they play album tracks, because they play unfinished new songs and because they do the unexpected. But from looking around the crowd, listening to the unprecedented chatter levels (in my experience at least) and ear-wigging a few punters on the way out, I can’t help thinking that whilst they may have done all the right things tonight, they almost certainly did them in the wrong order.
As Far As I Can See / Wave Hello / Monkey God / Bless Them All / Consequences / Dance Of The Bad Angel / Gloria Descends / Hit Parade / Old Ways / Down To The Sea / Bone / Shatters / Monsters / All About Time / Fall In Love With Me / Buried Alive / The Point Of Darkness / What’s The World
review by oneofthethree
It’s another disappointing turnout for the gig in Sheffield tonight – frustrating in the sense that this is great music and there’s a connection being made between the band and the crowds that are there, but then there’s almost a real sense of back to basics, that this is a delicious secret that’s being shared by a few but which deserves a wider audience. James played gigs like this for years and it didn’t serve them in bad stead. The sad dynamic of the present music industry and the economic climate is that the big gigs, the “experiences” of Kylie, Lady Ga Ga, U2, Muse, will still sell and for silly prices and even old-stagers like James can trade on their reputation for being a great live band by still being a great live band and with new material that whilst not as singalong as the hits from the nineties still stands the acid quality test. Tim’s situation is different – he has a great record, a great band, but are people going to go out and spend £20 a ticket, plus drinks, food and transport, for something that’s not as familiar to them, that isn’t pumped via Hit FM into their houses, when they’re struggling with rising living costs, fear for their jobs and general uncertainty? The answer would seem to be no. You can’t reduce ticket prices too far, because these tours, even operating on basics, still cost money to put together and there’s little left to actually promote the gigs other than word of mouth and the internet. There’s no lavish SJM glossy video, front page on Seetickets website, newspaper adverts to promote Tim in the way James had for their last tour.
In a way, and it won’t console Tim’s bank manager, this has a positive impact at the shows in the way the audience react to the songs. Most of the people at the shows will have sought out details, had to make an effort to get there past clicking on a link on a mailing list. Looking at the people singing along, there’s a large proportion of them, Fall In Love With Me is respected because people get it and know they need to shut up. Double or triple the audience size and you’d get heckling, unrest that there’s one James song tonight, right at the end and it’s a 28 year old single on Factory. On the way out, two guys were talking, one a James fan who’d brought his mate along, and was apologising for the gig being “shit” as there were no James songs and his mate, who’d never seen James and clutching a special edition, cutting him down by telling him something along the lines that he thought he liked music and how could he not have enjoyed that show.
Anyway I digress. The Leadmill has an odd sound set up, the main speakers in the ceiling but then some huge bass speakers either side of the stage that seriously boom out. Stand near them and you can feel the floor vibrate for most of the show. It does have a nice high stage though which gives everyone a great view and allows Chris to work his magic with the simple, but very cleverly executed light show.
The gig starts with Tim coming through the audience with the rest of the band singing As Far As I Can See. There’s a comedy moment when a guy in a pink shirt is given the mic by Tim to whistle and can’t manage to get anything out. Everyone laughs. Tim smiles and gives him another go and he cracks it this time which gets him a cheer from the crowd. They then work their way to the stage, Tim stopping to sing to and with other people in the crowd. At the end of the song Tim tells a story of how Patti Smith once chastised an audience at a far from sold out gig for not bringing their friends and says we would consider ourselves ticked off.
Wave Hello and Monkey God start to rock out, the latter having a change of lyrics in one of the verses which works really well. Tim tells a story about the royal wedding and his visit to his mum in the old folks home as some technical stuff is being sorted out. Bless Them All starts soft and slow before exploding into a chorus and an ending with the audience being invited to sing-along into the microphone as the band add harmonies to Tim. Consequences is dark and brooding and gets a great response from the audience.
Another comical moment ensues at the start of Dance Of The Bad Angel when Tim sings the first line and waits for quiet and then realises the noise is the venue air-conditioning, so carries on. It’s the one song that suffers most from the slightly overpowering bass. No such worries with Gloria Descends, which ends with some absolutely beautiful vocals with Tim, Lee and Neil singing “descends descends” in turn.
As in Wrexham, the band introduce another Booth and the Bad Angel song that they’ve learnt on the tour. Tonight it’s Hit Parade, which was played about seven times in the soundcheck earlier as they were trying to get it right. It’s punchy and upbeat and leads the way into Old Ways, which is again a highlight of the set, Dan jumping on his stool, Neil rocking out and his hair flying everywhere and Tim pointing and smiling at an enthusiastic dancer in the crowd. It also has a beautiful breakdown section in the middle with Dan’s keys.
After Down To The Sea, Tim asks if anyone has any questions as no-one had at the VIP soundcheck – I’m not sure however he was expecting the favourite dinosaur question. I didn’t catch his answer if anyone was wondering, although Lee suggests Larry out of James as his answer.
Bone and Shatters have become staples in the latter part of the set, and with good reasons. Bone is long and languid and showcases the skills of the band, whilst Shatters has an anthemic quality, particularly in the live environment.
Monsters again proves to be a highlight, dark, weird and shouty, Tim having earlier said he’d developed from what Brian Eno had called a “crooner” into being able to be a “shouter” as well. All About Time, introduced as about addictive culture, is as wild as ever – it’s surprising Tim can sing the lyrics at the speed he does and get them all right. No notes needed. The band take over and jam the song to its end with Tim using the large stage to lose himself in dance.
Fall In Love With Me starts the encore and is beautifully observed by all, except the air-conditioning. There’s some sound issues during Buried Alive, where it cuts out a bit before there’s a quick fix mid-song. The Point Of Darkness ends with five of the band, not Saul for some reason, stood together singing accapella and then the audience join in. It’s a surprise success live and is a great set-closer.
They do however then respond to calls to come back for a second time and we’re treated to a very short run through What’s The World. It’s funny that until it’s played, I hadn’t realised there wasn’t a James track in the set. It didn’t matter and whilst both Suffering and Falling Down have sounded great and been given a new life by how they’ve been played.
It just still feels wrong that there weren’t more people there to see and experience this.
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.
Due to a ticket cock-up, we started this show up in the grand circle, allowing us to sit back and take in the first five new songs – Work It All Out, Stand Stand Stand, Senorita, Gaudi and Daniel’s Saving Grace. The seated crowd responded probably better than any crowd so far on this tour to the onslaught of new material, but the atmosphere was virtually non-existent save for the power created by the music.
Tim took the initiative during the opening bars of Say Something and jumped into the crowd, climbing across the seats to about two-thirds of the way back in the stalls where he stood on a seat with a single light focused on him. The whole venue was now on its feet and the ice broken.
The band launched into Fred Astaire and I launched myself out of the circle, down the stairs and through to the stalls where a couple of bouncers were negotitated during Sometimes to get to the front row by the time the band started Johnny Yen which received its now traditional roar of recognition from James gig veterans for a song old enough to be the parents of some of the new ones, this sounding as fresh and vibrant as ever.
Someone’s Got It In For Me was equally well received from its opening bars. It seems as if everyone at these shows must have bought (or taped) Millionaires given the reception this has been given.
Another trio of new songs followed – English Beefcake is making a late play for being my favourite of the newies with Tim’s quickfire verses merging into a plaintive chorus of “we are born, we are slaves, we must find our own way” before the song mutates into Tim and Kulas almost chanting “it’s all my fault, I get in the way, unable to break obsession”.
Pleased To Meet You starts out as a lament to a “boy out of touch with his feelings” and has a simple chorus of “pleased to meet you, where are you from and what’s your name?” It has a beautifully slow pace until 2 1/2 minutes when the guitars kick in and Mike yells himself hoarse into his megaphone and the guitars are cranked up – a song with two halves.
The Shining is almost messed up as the band seem to start out of synch and they pull it through despite Saul’s guitar sounding awfully out of tune. Epic and with a lyric about Nazis and Jews, this is a great song and may raise controversy at some stage at the future.
Destiny, Star (dedicated by Tim, Barry White style, to the women) and How Was It For You? close the set. Being now stood stage centre and being able to dance freely was a strange but enjoyable experience with which to close the show.
The encore opened with Top Of The World, the emotion punctured by five dickheads stood at the front trying to drown Tim out by talking about how much beer they’d drunk or how small their penises are. Tim told them at the end of the song to go and stand somewhere else if they wanted to talk rather than listen. Saul got it spot on “in other words, shut the fuck up!”
Laid and Ring The Bells brought the show to a close, the crowd still on their feet and dancing in the aisles.
This was a very strange gig – I can’t remember the last time I saw James play an electric set in the UK in a seated venue. Tim valiantly tried to create an atmosphere and was successful to an extent. But you can’t beat an elbow in the back and the air being squeezed out of your lungs. Please don’t play seated venues again.