Concert Review: James, Phoenix Theatre, Sept 23

Toronto – Wow. What a show. It is once in a blue moon when a classic band that you really wanted to see strolls through town. I suspect I speak for the sold out crowd at the Phoenix Theatre when I say its been too long since the Manchester band James last played Toronto. In fact, I don’t even know when they last came to town. Now I list James among the bands that are on my must see list (along with Pulp, Suede, Blur, Manics…) so this review might be a bit bias because I have such a strong affinity for them. For a quick intro to the band, James is a Brit band that formed in 1981 (when I was 1). Since then, they have released 11 albums while never really attaining super stardom. Their music is mainly along the pop-rock variety, often with a nice buildup to a soaring, majestic sing-along chorus. You might know them for the American Pie theme song “Laid” or pub classic “Sit Down”. You might not. Das Not Matter.

So lets talk about the show. First of all, this might be the oldest audience I have ever been around. How old, you say? Well .. there was no security at the door. I just strolled in. No ID checks, no pat downs, just a friendly hello. WTF? Seriously, most times at the Phoenix, I get patted down so hard I feel like smoking a cigarette and feel guilty for not knowing the security persons name. This time, nothing. I would say the average age of this crowd was 35 – 40. Yup. We even joked that if James came on at 11, half the people would have to go home, because their babysitter probably was done for the night at that time. Seriously, it was a nice, kind crowd. No one fighting for space, nothing. Tickets outside were selling for 100$ a pop, so this was definitely a hot ticket.

Unkle Bob opened. Who? I don’t know. Whatever. At around 9:45 or so, James came out to a great ovation, Tim Booth still looks like a serial killer, but who cares. Tonight, he would kill us with his voice and his tunes. Starting off the night with an indian yell and “Born Of Frustration”, the concert officially took off. The crowd was crazy the entire night, definitely one of the most appreciative crowds I have seen. No arm folding and head nodding here. The band sounded tight. I didn’t even know there was seven of them. Either way, they were crisp and Tim Booth’s voice still sounds great. He dances like a mad man and has a lot more stage presence then I expected. This was clearly a band that knows it shit. After a few new tunes off Hey Ma, the band launched into “Fred Astaire”, the lone entry from the underrated Millionaires album. I don’t think they played anything from “Please to Meet You” though.

The rest of the night was just a buffet of James hits (mixed with new tunes). Songs played included “She’s A Star”, “Waltzing Along”, “Say Something” and “Destiny Calling”. Honestly, I lost track. There were so many. The end of the set went like this: James launches into Sometimes. The crowd sings along. The band stops playing music, the crowd keeps on singing along. Louder and louder. three or four minutes later – the opening riff for Laid plays and the crowd goes nuts. Two encores and a “Come Home” later, the crowd goes home happy. Even better, James tells everyone they will be back next year. Pancakes.

4.95/5 – incredible show, lots of energy, great musicianship, great songs, okay venue.

Set list courtesy of the boys at

Born of Frustration
Oh My Hear
Just Like Fred Astaire (with Michael Kulas)
Destiny Calling (with Michael Kulas)
Five-0 (with Michael Kulas)
I Wanna Go Home
Out To Get You
Hey Ma
Say Something
Ring the Bells

Don’t Wait That Long
She’s a Star
Come Home

Top Of The World

They didn’t play Tommorrow. My favorite tune, so I knock off 0.05.

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts

About Ricky

Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.