Because I forget stuff. Part of

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Originally posted April 24 2007 at 19:04 under General. 4 Comments. 1 Trackback (now closed). Last modified: 25 April 2007 at 20:42

Still buzzing :-)
Er, take a guess

Last night James played a gig at Newcastle Carling Academy. Short version: They were fantastic!

Setlist (as copied from One of the Three because my brain is far too gone to remember exactly :-))

  1. Come Home
  2. Waltzing Along
  3. Ring The Bells
  4. Play Dead
  5. If Things Were Perfect
  6. Who Are You
  7. Chain Mail
  8. Out To Get You
  9. Don’t Wait That Long
  10. Upside Downside
  11. Johnny Yen
  12. English Beefcake
  13. Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
  14. Destiny Calling
  15. Tomorrow
  16. Sit Down
  17. Gold Mother
  18. Laid
  19. Sometimes
  20. She’s A Star
  21. Say Something

Photograph of James on stage at the Newcastle Carling Academy last nightJames have been away a while. Five and a half years ago (roughly) Tim Booth left, effectively ending the reign of a band who never quite received the acclaim they deserved. For those of us of a certain age their sound was part of the tapestry that accompanied heady uni days, their passing perhaps a signifier of something (if I wasn’t almost too busy trying to do a PhD for it actually to be such). Fast forward through those five and a bit years, the occasional snatch of Sit Down, or Laid, or She’s A Star drifting through popular culture but the solo career of even Tim being largely ignored. Probably the biggest exposure any of them had was Tim’s appearance in the Manchester Passion last year. And then a quiet notice appeared and word got around. James are back.

And how they are back, triumphantly with a renewed energy and willingness the “Laid Six” return (and how many bands can claim to truly be a six piece, each an integral part, not with a couple there to stand around and do nothing but dance). Yet no bank balance filling, roll out the hits and run with the cash tour is this. James have said they are here to do new things, to show them all how it should be done again, not just go over the familiar Best Of once more for old times sake. Any fear that wasn’t the case vanished four songs in. They raised the temperature, and the noise, and the crowd with Come Home, Waltzing Along and Ring The Bells, which I have to confess have just merged into a glorious crescendo of sound in my mind. And then, with the crowd already beginning to sing every word, out comes Play Dead. There’s almost a collected drawing of breath from some of the crowd; Play Dead isn’t on any best of, it’s not a single (it is however, one of my favourite James songs :-)). You can almost hear some of them wondering, what the fuck is this? The crowd aren’t lost though. They listen, they get caught, they become part of the song and by its end the reception is as crazy as for any of the preceding three “hits”.

Photograph of James on stage at the Newcastle Carling Academy last nightAt this point a lot of bands would have thrown the audience a bone, something familiar. James are not a lot of bands; instead we get something that I’m willing to bet that even some of those familiar with Play Dead don’t know. If Things Were Perfect is from way back, from before I was a James fan, from the dawn of the band (before even Tim?). Have James even played that song in something like fifteen years? (well, actually I know they played it in the first warm up for this tour, in front of a small gathering of knowledgeable James fans, but before that?). It doesn’t matter, the crowd are still following them, still taking and loving whatever is thrown their way, and it doesn’t sound its age. It’s somehow remarkable that, introduced as the new single, Who Are You just seems to fit. Here it is following something that’s about twenty five years its senior and it just feels right; it’s more modern, it’s poppier, it’s just as glorious. It seems to have gotten enough internet attention that quite a few people already know the words too. We don’t need to ask the question back though, it’s pretty obvious by now that the band in front of us really is James.

By this stage they really could play what they like, it’s accepted that it’ll sound wonderful whatever it is. They do play Chain Mail, updated and tweaked and rocking the place as the audience get into it. Then, as if we as a crowd have earned our stripes (at some point in the night Tim mentioned they hoped we were handling the set, that they were playing with respect that the audience would listen), as if they’d shown that they could command and play as well as ever, without resorting to a tour of just the hits, they played Out To Get You, surely the finest James track not to have been a single (and rightly on the Best Of). From the opening notes they had us, as one singing the beautiful lyrics, such a large audience still managing to carry the fragility of such a song. Don’t Wait That Long led into another new one, Upside Downside (according to the setlist anyway; honestly I couldn’t actually have told you what it was). The first time I’ve heard it; it sounded rawer, different, like a new song should. It’s reception threatens to drown out live favourite Johnny Yen. A standing ovation indeed.

Photograph of James playing at the Newcastle Carling Academy last nightAs if to tease with the unusual one last time English Beefcake gets an airing—I’ve never been sure of it myself but here it’s as great as everything else. Then it’s hits time, not that the crowd are demanding them at all; I think James could have played every obscure track they’ve ever had and it would have been lapped up just as much by now. Somewhere in the middle of Getting Away With It Tim all messes up the lyrics, improvisation he later half jokes. It doesn’t matter, as Destiny Calling ratchets up the level again. Not as much as the gloriously triumphant Tomorrow though. Sit Down is then everything you expect, every word sung as much by the audience as the band. This performance has never been about the big hits though, the great crowd pleasing chant alongs that it could have been. James have teased us along, led the crowd until those who had came from the hits have realised that what they want is actually just whatever James decide to give them. Gold Mother seems to fit the ethos perfectly, as it wanders off on its own, taking everyone with it.

Photo of James on stage during the Newcastle Carling Academy gig last nightThey are of course not going to get away with leaving things there though. Laid and Sometimes (oh, yes, Sometimes :-D) are as rip roaringly fantastic as you’d expect of a great band who now have a crowd hanging and swaying on their every note. The second encore brings something about as audacious as anything else in this set. With a crowd screaming for more they start up another Best Of hit, but this isn’t the She’s A Star we know. This is quieter, more delicate, stripped of some of its sound (I have to confess it’s never been my favourite James track; it’s always somehow grated on me. I’ll probably never love it but I definitely prefer this version). The crowd start to sing, then realise that they’re not quite in harmony, James have one final test. By the end the band have pulled it off, and the crowd are singing one of “their” songs the way James want to do it. The reward is a fantastic, extended Say Something which seems to blend into the noise of applause and hoarse throated whoops of delight.

When the harsh house lights come up to show us, still buzzing, the way out it’s like breaking a magical spell. James have taken us from hits, on a tour of old and new, and back again; and it’s been fantastic every step of the way. The crowd responded, the band responded and seemed truly happy to be up on that stage, maybe even a little taken aback by the support coming their way. They really could have played forever (oh for Riders, or Hymn From A Village or the new Chameleon, or…but who am I to complain :-)), and we would have danced and listened and screamed for more. The new “best of”, Fresh as a Daisy comes out very soon. The single disc version seems like an updating of the Best Of. Get the two disc version that’s got everything. One can’t help wish that things like She’s A Star on there are the updated, newer versions. Probably not given the amount of time things have been put together in, but you never know. And there’s the thing, because whilst that’s a retrospective, one can’t help wonder what James are capable of doing, hinted at by the two new tracks on there. Want that new album!


Comments (4):


The rest of the (poor quality due to being from my phone’s camera) photographs can be found here

Made by Ian Scott on Apr 24, 2007 at 20:07


great review of my favourite band. i wish i could have seen it.

Made by joie on May 5, 2007 at 22:52


I was looking for the lyrics for If Things Were Perfect (smoke filled room; somebody’s lungs aint clean), it’s one of my all time favourites, when I stumbled on this page. I got into James after hearing the Village Fire EP in about 1988. They were the best live band I have ever seen. The most memorable gig was the one at Sheffield University supported by Happy Momdays in (I think) October 1989. Tim Booth should be up there with the best of them. This is a fantastically well written review by the way. I’m not one to comment on stuff on the web, but credit where it’s due, this is spot on. I hope they will be playing again soon. In fact I should go and check it out on google…

Made by Andy on Oct 21, 2007 at 20:31


@Andy: Glad you liked the review. It doesn’t really do justice to the energy James had though—they’re still one of the finest live bands around. I doubt there’ll be any more gigs until the album’s ready though; as far as I know they’re busy working on it right now. Come on 2008!

Oh, for the record (because I’m that sort of person ;-) ), the Sheffield Uni gig with Happy Mondays in support was October 1988. And the lyrics to If Things Were Perfect

Made by Ian Scott on Oct 27, 2007 at 14:45

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This Crazy Fool

Dr Ian Scott
Croydon (and Gateshead), United Kingdom
Bullding Services Engineer (EngDesign), PhD in Physics (University of York), football fanatic (Newcastle United), open source enthusiast (mainly Mozilla)

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