Concert Review: James, Dec. 9, Hammersmith Apollo

London –  Prior to this show, we learned that James guitarist Larry Gott had been hospitalized for some undisclosed reason.  Needless to say, there was some concern about how this might affect the show.  The answer was not that much at all.  Other than sitting down for much of the show and being on painkillers, Gott was in fine form, as was the entire band.  James are all talented musicians (not a surprise since they’ve been together more or less since the early ’80s) and they put on a good show.  Going into the show, I didn’t have huge expectations.  Unlike some people, I am not what you would call a huge fan.  I’ve liked a lot of their songs but I haven’t really paid attention to anything they’ve done since 1997’s Whiplash. So when they started off their set with several mellow numbers from their new album(presumably in order to give Gott a chance to take it somewhat easy and gradually work into things, I was unimpressed.  Nothing against those songs, they sounded fine.  But up until midway through the set, I was thinking this show was worth maybe just a 3.5 rating – good, but not great.

But then something happened – this show got good.  The first sign of greatness came when they played “Tomorrow.”  It was the first real universal crowd pleaser they played and a step in the right direction.  Then, there was Tim Booth.  As a singer, he’s got a pretty powerful voice, but it’s really all about his energy and enthusiasm.  He and the whole band actually just seem like a bunch of good friends getting together to play music.  One imagines they might have the same kind of vibe when they’re in their practice space.  But Booth is something to see live.  And he seemed to be taking full advantage of playing in a seated theatre, venturing into the crowd often, walking down the aisles and onto the seats.  And dancing.  Booth’s dancing would best be described as convulsions crossed with some sort of martial art.  With his shaved head and goatee, at one point I thought that he resembled Ben Kingsley doing a Stevie Wonder impersonation.

James pretty much had the crowd eating out of the palm of their hand.  The audience was loving it, as was I.  As a fairly casual fan (I could probably only name a handful of their songs before the show, and even those are the biggest hits), I was left pretty impressed by their showmanship.  And it’s always pretty great to hear a roomful of people singing along as one.  This happened several times throughout the show and culminated in a mass singalong of “Sometimes” that seemed to go on forever.  The biggest moment of the night, however, came maybe about 2/3 of the way into the set.  After inviting one fan onto the stage to dance along during “Laid”, another person got on stage.  Then a few more, then Booth just invited everyone to come on stage while he roamed through the aisles singing up close to the crowd.  It’s the kind of thing bands might do during the last song of an encore, yet they let it happen midway through.  It was a spontaneous moment that led to the somewhat awkward yet funny scene of the band trying to clear everyone offstage while Booth made his way back to the stage so they could start the next song.  While the “Sometimes singalong seemed like a common occurrence at James shows, this was definitely not just business as usual.  I wouldn’t exactly say I became a big James fan that night, but it’s hard to deny their power as a band.  Colour me impressed.

Tell Her I Said So by ‘James’

Tell Her I Said So by ‘James’

Posted on by Paul in Concerts