SetlistLaid / Dust Motes / Lookaway / Sit Down
- Venue: KEXP Studios, Seattle, WA, USA
- Date: 9th October 2010
Lookaway is track seven on the 2010 James mini-album The Morning After. An alternative version features as an i-Tunes only bonus track.
It was the lead radio track from the mini-album and also featured extensively on the band’s 2011 orchestra tour.
|Released:||6th September 2010|
|Main Associated Album (or Single):||The Morning After|
|First Heard Live:||Unknown|
One-track radio promo CDR
Look Away (radio edit)
|Release Name:||Lookaway CDR promo|
|Release Date:||September 2010|
One-track radio promo CDR
Some things in life always let you down. Some things never do. After a rather predictably average performance by the overpaid England primadonnas, the crowd inside the small O2 Academy 2 venue is waiting for James to do their bit and raise spirits back. They take to the stage about 45 minutes after full time, with Tim resplendent in a Vivienne Westwood hat, by which time the anticipation has built to fever pitch. Typically, James throw in a curveball to start. Dust Motes (which is what it said on the setlist) is a track, presumably, from the forthcoming The Morning After mini-album, and as such is a slower, more brooding number than those from the sister album The Night Before. In James tradition, the song grows and builds as it progresses. It sounds excellent, and it’ll be interesting to see how it translates to record.
Whilst not standing out on the album, Ten Below is probably the song from The Night Before that translates best to the live environment. It’s helped by a simple but effective lighting as the song breaks down and Tim sings through the microphone.
Given this is a festival headline warm-up slot, there’s going to be a selection of Greatest Hits in the set tonight. Tim alludes to the fact that they’re clashing with Paul McCartney at the festival and that they’d considered doing a version of Hey Jude to stop people disappearing to see him, but then decided they’d probably start with She’s A Star. Come Home follows that, after some joking around on stage about who farts the worst. Come Home is ragged and on the edge of breakdown, but is all the better for it.
Next is another new song Look Away. Although it was previewed at the Proud Galleries gig in December 2008, it’s now a completely different beast and sounds like it could well be the standout track on the new album, with the catchy hookline “you weren’t in the building when the walls came crashing down”.
It’s back to the more familiar for the rest of the set. Tomorrow starts the crowd jumping, Stutter keeps them going and is, as ever, proof of this band being something different, out of the ordinary – you just don’t have songs unreleased in studio format that are thirty years old that steal shows like this. As a contrast, Out To Get You takes the pace back down again and is as soothing and beautiful as ever, as grown men belt out the lyrics at the top of their voices. Dream Thrum follows, and whilst it’s played beautifully, you do feel there are more worthy tracks in the back catalogue that could be revisited and reworked. No such issues with I Wanna Go Home, which simply explodes into life and takes the crowd with it. The set finishes with a double whammy of Ring The Bells, which reduces the alcohol-infused crowd to one heaving sweaty mass. Sound finishes the set and just when you think it’s time to maybe rest it for a tour, they take it off in different directions again, the ending is pure James improvisation.
Tim comes back and asks the crowd if they want to hear Lullaby and Top Of The World or Sometimes and Laid as the encore. When it’s put to the vote, it’s inconclusive so Tim offers a compromise of one of each. The crowd are entirely respectful of Lullaby, as the fragile opening bars rise out above the steam and heat of the crowd. It’s sparse and fragile and beautiful. Sometimes is sung along by everyone with a pulse and it crashes into the wild abandon of a crazy Laid to close the gig, allowing the crew to pack up and make the overnight Isle of Wight ferry.
Not so much a gig, as an open rehearsal this one. And a set list far out of left-field. The Proud Gallery is an awful place for a gig, the sound set up is all wrong, the white background against which the bands play is unsuited to gigs and has The Blues Anthology written directly behind Tim, the floor (and I’m sure it’s part of the “concept” of the fact it used to be stables) is uneven and rutted and the lighting seems to consist of an on/off switch. Tim’s clearly jetlagged, there’s issues with the bass which packs in completely at the end. And, despite everything, it all holds that uniqueness that has made every James gig special in its own right.
After what seems like an age getting into the venue, and then longer into the room and then even longer for them to come on, Someone’s Got It In For Me would normally be a strange opener but fits the tone of what’s to come. Lullaby keeps the pace relatively sedate for the start. How Was It For You gets a part of the crowd dancing. To be honest, it’s loose and on the edge of falling apart, but that just makes it more exciting.
Look Away is the first of the two new songs. It’s difficult to tell what Tim is singing about as Dave’s drums are way too high in the mix to make them out, but the song itself is quite mid-paced and languid and builds gently. It’s not immediate, but the best James songs previewed live are generally the ones that aren’t (with the odd exception – Upside, Sit Down). It’s great to hear new material though, laurels are clearly not being rested upon and the appearance of them would seem to suggest more releases down the line.
On the night fans can first get their hands on the new James live CD, it’s fitting that the highlights of the set are the reappearance of two long-lost favourites from the first live album. Burned, apart from a short-lived and rare appearance on the 1991 tour, hasn’t been played for twenty years. It’s been called for by fans for a while now and it’s refreshing to see that someone in James Central has listened and they’ve tried it. It sounds as biting, pointed and relevant today as it did then.
Getting Away With It takes ages to get started with them not quite having worked out responsibility for starting it, but it induces the first main singalong of the evening and breaks the gig a little for some of those less familiar with the side of James back catalogue on show tonight. It’s then into Dream Thrum, which was resurrected on the recent US tour, which builds momentum as the song grows.
The second new song, Porcupine, seems more formed than the first although Tim needs his lyric sheets. As with Look Away, it’s not an instant classic but definitely is something that I’d like to hear again on the tour as they hone it down in soundchecks and the remaining rehearsals.
Two Millionaires tracks follow, making it three on the evening, the most in a set since the reunion and an indication perhaps that the tour will touch all bases in the back catalogue. Just Like Fred Astaire is characterised by Mark’s keyboards and sounds as uplifting as ever. I Know What I’m Here For benefits from having the effects turned down slightly and guitar higher in the mix.
The second highlight is Stutter. For years, this was a traditional set-closer and brings up the end of One Man Clapping. Without the lights that used to accompany it, it’s not stripped of the power of the music as it spirals to a crescendo of noise at the end.
The set is changed slightly to allow the only Hey Ma track of the evening, Upside, to be added. There’s an argument between Saul and Larry over Saul’s guitar strap, which he claims Larry has. It’s all good-natured and once the set up is sorted out, the song is There’s a guy next to me and this is the only song he sings along to, which struck me as weird, but on reflection not a bad thing for James’ future.
Sound is troubled by issues with Jim’s bass. This does allow the song to take on a different slant and sound different again. It’s curtailed slightly as it’s still early days for the tour and rehearsals so we don’t get the instinctive improvised extended ending sadly.
In the absence of a working bass guitar, the encore is restricted, probably by curfew as well, to a gorgeous acoustic rendition of Lose Control from Tim and Larry.
This was, as Tim pointed out, never going to be like a normal James gig. These shows are there to test out songs for the tour that haven’t been played for a while or to roadtest new songs. James’ audience has become accustomed to this so there’s few dissenting voices. The choices of songs though show that there’s a thoughtfulness gone into some of the selections that hopefully will make the tour a real celebration of 25 years since What’s The World was first released.
Bring on Brighton. And please can we go back to Hoxton next time.