Posts Tagged ‘James’

Violins and Trumpets…..no chocolate cakes

James live in Manchester.

A couple of years ago, James headlined the Vs Cancer gig at the MEN Arena. It wasn’t a usual set. They had a choir and orchestra. They also had Rowetta and Hooky singing and playing with them, but we will bypass that. The orchestra and choir worked. Then on their last tour, the choir came along again at the MEN show and you know, it worked again. So the natural progression was a full tour with orchestra and choir, and so “An Evening with James” was conceived.

Last night the tour finally hit Manchester and, man, are we glad it did. We had been told by Tim on his Twitter feed to be there for 8pm and leave the hits at the door and we were, well most of us were…..the empty row till just before the interval suggested not everyone is a tweeter but that is by the by.

The Orchestra of the Swan walked on stage, followed by the Manchester Consort Choir, the lights dimmed and the band followed. Tim told us that they were starting slowly and so we should sit back and enjoy as Dust Motes started up, Mark playing the piano beautifully. Hello followed, again with a great piano opening, the song getting a new lease of life freed from its overproduced recorded shackles. Another underplayed, underrated album track followed with Alaskan Pipeline from the Pleased to Meet You album, same rules apply as Hello, much better live in this environment that on record. The Shining, again from Pleased to Meet You followed and I started to get a little worried. Not at the performance on stage, but about how the crowd would start to react when it was clear this wasn’t the usual James gig, but I should give the Manchester crowd more credit as the ovation at the end of the song allayed my fears.

At this point Tim stopped the show to say a few words about a stalker who seems to have been fly posting Manchester regarding doing him harm and Someone’s got it in for me was dedicated to him/her. A favourite of mine from Millionaires and the song showed it’s true class tonight.

One of the best parts of this period of James is their willingness to revisit their past go right back into the midst of time and play really early 80s stuff and this is continued on this tour with Fairground.  The choir really start to come into their own on this song with the backing vocals and it is a song that is more than welcome in the setlist. It was then time for a Tim walkabout. Regular James gig goers know that at some point, Tim will be about in the crowd and on the tour so far, (Just Like) Fred Astaire has been that cue. He started by walking up one aisle, then into the crowd and moved along on top of the seats before being helped back onto the stage. The walkabout allowed for the strange sight of one lady dancing with her head pretty much jammed up against Tims buttocks (there is a sentence I never thought I would type.)

Hymn from a Village was up next, with Jim Glennie basslibne replaced by the harp, it probably shouldn’t work. It does. Within spades. With bells on.

Hey Ma and We’re gonna miss you when you’re gone close the first part of the show, the former built up well with the strngs of the orchestra, the latter showing the choir off perfectly and the acapella ending was superb with both band members and choir continuing to sing whilst back stage.

The second half started with some tomfoolery from Tim trying to conduct the orchestra, ending with a rendition of the William Tell overture, giving the choir time to file back on stage and kick straight into She’s A Star, with just Tim, Mark on piano and the orchestra and choir on stage. Haunting isn’t the word.

Space followed, another underrated Pleased to Meet you track, followed by Lookaway from the latest Morning After album. Possibly not the strongest James song, but certainly not out of place tonight. Old James followed with Riders before possibly the most obscure song of the night, The Lake, which was a Laid era b-side. It is a song that many James fans have said they want to see played live, hopefully after this tour, it will be played more in the set as it was stunning. Utterly stunning.

Fire so Close followed with the male choir members at the front of the stage and Larry duelling with the violin player from the orchestra. Then the moment I was dreading. Say Something. A song I have said previous on this blog that I am not bothered if I never hear again live, but tonight, it was superb. Two female choir members were down at the front of the stage singing with Tim and that made it work well. I just hope when the “regular” gigs come back, they do something different with it. For the last two songs the crowd were up on their feet and Tim warned people not to sit down now. A warning heeded by most.  Tomorrow followed and just when you thought that the gig was heading into familiar territory, Medieval sent it spinning into a different direction, with its refrain of “We are Sound” being sung with gusto by the choir.

Getting away with it finished the regular set and it was time for the encore. And regular James attendees knew that this was tghe time to look round the venue to see where Tim would apprear. The 1st tier was the answer as Top of the World was started. It s a wonderful song anyway, but tonight it was in a different stratosphere to paraphrase the song. Beautiful.

An extended opening to Of Monsters, Heroes and Men could only mean one thing….Tim was lost. A fact confirmed at the end of the song when Saul commented that it was a long time to play one note, but it was his best note.

Sometimes finished the set off with the now customary singalong, including Tim firing up the crowd saying we sounded like a London crowd and ending with a sing off between choir and audience.

Not many bands could pull this kind of show off, and not many would take the risk. Happily for us James fans, the band are happy to do both and as a result, the people of Manchester are treated to something just a bit special.

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Now your grips too strong….

Tim Booth at Preston Guild Hall earlier in the year.

I always look forward to James gigs in Manchester with a sense of excitement and foreboding. You imagine the band always wants to put on a show for their “hometown” but with it usually being at the MEN and at Christmas I worry about the crowd. All kegged up with Christmas cheer and just wanting to hear Sit Down. Maybe I worry too much and on last night’s performance, I probably do.

I missed Frazer King sadly, but had the misfortune to catch most of the Pigeon Detectives set. That is time I won’t be getting back.

At 8.50, the houselights went down and James took to the stage. It took a bit of time for them to get started, but soon enough Born of Frustration boomed from the speakers, for once the MEN sound seemed to be clear and reach all parts. Andy’s trumpet took centre stage, Tim decided to miss out the howling, probably due to the flu he has been suffering, but that didn’t stop him taking the first walkabout of the night up towards Block 114 (I know the block number as that is where I was sat.) Seven and Ring the Bells soon followed, the latter a song that I wouldn’t worry if I never heard the band play again, familiarity certainly breeding some contempt here, but on this occasion, it was lively and for once, I enjoyed hearing it.

Larry introduced the next song as one Manchester always loves and this was proven with the punching of the air from many of the crowd as Mark started up Come Home. It was ragged, it was messy, and it was pure James. This was the point of the gig where the banc decided to slow it down, starting with a beautiful PS and moving onto Got the Shakes, with David playing a drum at the front of the stage, and the backing vocals provided by the Manchester Consort Choir. As a song in a large arena it shouldn’t have worked, but with the heavy beat and choir providing superb backing vocals, it worked perfectly, and proved James can still take risks and pull them off. Tell Her I said So followed, again with the choir and it was great to see the vast majority of the crowd sticking with the band, and the amount of people round me singing the “Here’s to a long life” refrain suggested there are plenty of James record buyers out there. Lookaway followed with Tim on guitar. There were times when the sound didn’t quite reach out to all in the arena and the choir seemed to drown out Tim at times, but the close of the song was epic and typically James pulled the song back from the brink. James by numbers Say Something followed and I personally think that the band should retire this now, or do something radical to it, as it in my view is just the band going through the motions, but from the reaction to it from the crowd, I am probably in a minority. Just Like Fred Astaire was wonderful, Larry dedicating it to his dad in the crowd. A great song on record, it takes on a life of its own live, Marks keyboards sounding superb, a song they should play more often. Jam J saw Jim come into his own with the bass taking over, Tim singing into a distortion mike. It was bedraggled, it was messy, the lighting was superb and the song likewise. Shame more of the crowd didn’t really seem to pick up on it and put in the effort the band were doing. I wanna go Home, a song I loved from the first time I heard it at HMV on the release day of Hey Ma followed and soared and dipped and was as wonderful as it always is, Saul playing the violin as if his life depended on it (more of that later.) Sit Down was stripped down, played by the band all sat down on the stage. It had people running in from the bars and it worked, ensuring the first mass sing-along of the night. Out to Get you followed, a song I will never tire of hearing but just as you think it is going to fade out and end, Saul plays the most majestic violin solo, getting “into the zone” and ensuring a superb ending to the song. The band just stands aside and watches him play, as do most of the crowd, mesmerised. Rabbit Hole was, as it is on record, simply stunning.

The gig ends with She’s a Star, Getting away with it, Sound, with a superb middle part which sees Tim stood centre whist the band seem to totally improvise the song and Stutter, again messy and ragged and totally wonderful.

It wouldn’t be a James gig without a total risk and tonight it comes at the start of the encore. Tim asked the crowd for silence, and acknowledged the risk of playing Dust Motes especially “at this time of night.” Sadly, the silence didn’t arrive and the chatter from the back of the arena was very audible, which is a shame as the song is wonderful and thus it was this evening. You can’t help but feel that the ones not paying attention missed out on hearing something superb. Sometimes followed, with the choir back on stage. I prefer the slow starting version that the band had started to play over the past couple of years, but that is made up for by the mass sing-along by the whole arena. The choir were clearly enjoying themselves, as they had to be shut up by Tim so the crowd could take over. Goldmother followed, complete with Tim invited stage dancers, though the thuggery of some of the MEN “security” staff shouldn’t be ignored. From my seat in block 114, I could see the man handling of some crowd members, who just wanted to get on stage to dance with their heroes. I hope that some of James staff saw what went on and have a word with the MEN about some of their workers. As for the song, it went on and on, it was ram shackled and it was great. Saul started up the first couple of chords to Laid, before being told there was no time due to the 11pm curfew. The crowd booed, they wanted more, someone raced on stage to say “one more” and it brought a fine end to a superb show.

A special mention must be made of the lighting, which suited the gig perfectly and some of the images projected onto the big screen, with the split television screens a particularly innovative idea.

So against adversity James pulled it off yet again. Illness and injury seemed to jinx this tour, but on evidence of the MEN show, there is plenty of life in the old dogs yet.

Tim Booth at Preston Guild Hall earlier in the year.