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.

11 Responses to Concert Review: James, Phoenix Theatre, Sept 23

  1. JW

    Agree… it was a great gig – been a while (Winter 93?) since I saw James, in the UK and they’ve lost nothing in their tightness / on-stage presence since.

    Missed the old live favourite – Johnny Yen – but they were never going to be able to cover everything in the ~2hrs. And Tim Booth’s lack of hair is a bit disconcerting….

    Looking forward to finding out where/when next years will be.

  2. Andrea

    Nothing from ‘Pleased to Meet You’, sadly, but Five-o made up for that. A great night!

  3. stephanie

    great review of one of the best shows ive seen in a long while. “come on, dont be coool toronto” no one in the crowd was too cool, which is rare for screwface toronto crowds

  4. Badger

    This was the best show i’ve seen them do including the farewell show in manchester arena. More bands need to split up for 11 years if they can come back this strong. Nice to see some original fans and some new ones.
    Looking forward to seeing them again next year. Security would’nt let us backstage, even with vip passes, so a little pissed about that but awesome show anyway!

  5. Kathrin

    Awesome show…BUT a very large ommission was “sit down”. Even during the 2nd encore the crowd was crying out for “sit down next to me” and we got…nothing.

  6. stephen poy

    sounds awesome – i saw them last thursday in washington at the 930 club. i had the same experience – except i saw them while they were promoting laid – so i knew what to expect. they almost did a second encore down here, but too many people left after the first encore. you could tell from the lights that they were thinking about it. their reception by the fans was incredible. you could tell from their expressions it was more than they expected – the members in the band kept exchanging surprised glances.

    cant wait for them to come back.


  7. Tim

    I saw them at Lollapalooza ’97 at Kingswood. Good show…

    Man, I’m old… haha

  8. Ian Harris

    I was one of those 40 somethings at the show. There was no way I was leaving before the house lights went on.
    The babysitter was asleep on the couch when we got home to Burlington at 1:00am.
    Definately a great show.
    Also, nice (and surprising) to see the great audience reception for a Toronto crowd.

  9. Bruce

    Brilliant show, could have played a much larger venue but no complaints. Crowd was amazing, and I think the band were truly overwhelmed.

    I also missed hearing Tomorrow — though a quick check here reveals that they’ve been playing it a lot on this tour, it just wasn’t our turn. I was hoping they might segue into it from the coda to Ring The Bells, which I’ve always thought of as the inspiration for Tomorrow. (By the way, anyone else ever come to that conclusion? Give it a listen and see; just sing the chorus lyrics to Tomorrow over the end of Ring the Bells…)

    One last thought — I last saw James at the Opera House, I believe it was around ’94, and would welcome any confirmation of that. Thanks!

  10. DJ

    This was a greart show.
    Definately worth the drive from Detroit. I was most pleased they played Fred Astaire.
    I saw them in ’93 (15 years, wow) and am psyched they are back.

  11. Pingback: Shows This Week – Sept 27-30th, 2010 | The Panic Manual

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