Concert Review: James, December 10, Brixton Academy

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London – Seeing a band twice in two nights is always something I’ve always questioned, mainly because it’s a lot to handle for two consecutive nights. You know most of the songs are going to be the same, but you are always hoping for something different the second night that would make paying twice for a band worth it. For the record, here are the bands I’ve seen on consecutive nights so far in my live:

SXSW 2009 – Late of the Pier, second show featured a fight between the band and the security guards
NXNE 2009 – Matt and Kim, saw them twice in one night. They are always awesome
Teenage Fanclub, September 2010 – Second show’s set list was much better then the first

So Friday night marked the second time I saw James in two nights, and third time I saw them for this tour (I saw them in September in Toronto). For the first time ever, I wasn’t completely through the roof after their show.

Let’s first talk about the Brixton Academy. What a venue! It think it has one of the best interior designs I’ve seen at a venue. The floor is on a slope, so everyone has a good view and the design of the venue makes it seem like a Greek or Roman amphitheater from back in the day. Highly approved. Here’s apic of the interior, by some random person.

As previous mentioned, James guitarist Larry Gott was hospitalized on Wednesday for undisclosed reasons, so with that in mind, the band took the opportunity to test the crowd with some of the newer and more mellow material early in the set. Songs off the new double albums – The Night Before/The Morning After were played. The new songs translated live rather well, especially Dust Motes and Tell Her I Said So, the latter a song Tim Booth wrote about his mother.

However, a James concert is a James concert, perhaps it’s a bit of a trap, but the fans were there to hear the hits, and it wasn’t until the opening “WOO WOO WOOO WOO WOOOOOO” of Born of Frustrations that the crowd started to go a little nuts. Arms were in the air, people were singing along. Getting Away with It, the crowd pleaser from 2001’s Pleased to Meet You soon followed. I thought the concert was going along swimmingly.

I guess it’s might be a combination of five shows in six nights, a week of shows and partying or the fact that I heard most of the songs the night before, but the James show did not take off for me as it had just 24 hours prior – songs like Johnny Yen and Jam J I enjoy, but not enough for them to give me to go nuts for it two nights in a row. I thought the middle section of the set was a bit of a lull.

The beginning of the acoustic version of Sit Down started off the greatest hits section which was to lead to the end of the show. Sit Down will always be great, just for the sheer fact it’s rare to see so many people sing along to a song and losing their shit at the same time. A series of hits ended off the show – Laid, Ring the Bells, Stutter, Sound and Sometimes.

All in all, the show was good. They are such a polished band live and always provide moments. Tim Booth’s crowd surf/singing at the same time was pretty epic and at the same time, must have been hilariously awkward. The band’s chemistry on stage is something that I think any band would want and they are a band that genuinely wants to get the crowd as excited as possible. Perhaps I was expecting too much out of the show. James has put on absolutely great shows every time I saw them prior, so I might of had exceedingly high expectations for them. I was a bit disappointed that I didn’t get to hear Fred Astaire, Come Home or Destiny Calling either night, but I guess when you have such a massive back catalog, specific songs are hard to come by.

The crowd was one of the most enthusiastic I’ve seen, there was a large mosh pit in the middle of the stage and let me tell you, a mosh pit consisting of mostly aging Brits is not that great. Maybe it’s their banger and mash/meat pie diets, but man, those people are quite beefy and well, I’m not.

All in all, I still enjoyed the show, it wasn’t mind blowing, but in the end, you can’t go wrong with a James show.

Dust Motes.
Dream Thrum.
Tell Her I Said So.
It’s Hot.
Born Of Frustration.
Getting Away With It (All Messed Up).
Johnny Yen.
Rabbit Hole.
Bring A Gun.
Jam J.
Don’t Wait That Long.
Out To Get You.
Sit Down.
Ring The Bells.
I Wanna Go Home.

Concert Review: James, Dec. 9, Hammersmith Apollo

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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’

Concert Review: Dean Wareham, Dec. 8, Relentless Garage

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London –  Ah, nostalgia.  Within the span of this week alone, London will have played host to quite a few bands of a certain vintage – James, Suede, and of course, former Galaxie 500 singer Dean Wareham.  The Suede reunion show was of course a big nostalgic reunion show and James is still a going concern as far as putting new music out, but Wareham is an interesting case.  While he has consistently put out music since the Galaxie 500 days (first as Luna, and then with his wife as Dean and Britta), he’s currently on a tour playing all of his old band’s songs.  Except it’s not a reunion, more of a revisitation of his back catalogue.  Some may question the validity of playing these songs without his old bandmates, but it seems unlikely that a full reunion will happen and he is playing songs he wrote (and a bunch of covers … more on that later) so I have no problem with it.  After all, nobody made much of a fuss when Roger Waters did a tour of The Wall recently and nobody’s gonna say Paul McCartney shouldn’t play Beatles songs.  Still, it did seem a little weird when Britta Phillips sang a version of “Listen The Snow Is Falling,” a song sung on the original Galaxie 500 version by Naomi Yang.  Then again, it was a Yoko Ono cover so it’s not like Naomi has any special claim on that song.

Speaking of older music, openers Young Prisms are a young band, but they play a type of music heavily influenced by the shoegaze bands of the past.  While they may not necessarily be treading new ground, they still sounded pretty good, and looked like they were having fun up there.  Speaking of retro, they had their album available in 3 formats – CD, vinyl and cassette!  I was sorely tempted to buy that cassette.  Singer Stef Hodapp had a pretty good voice, but they need to find something for her to do during those long droney sections so she’s not just standing to the side of the stage drinking beer while they jam it out.  They too seemed pretty excited to see Dean Wareham, even though they probably weren’t all even born yet when Galaxie 500 started.

Wareham put on a pretty solid performance.  Although he seemed a bit reserved at first and just got down to the business of playing the songs right away, he did loosen up pretty quickly,telling two stories that began the same way (“I wrote this song after some friends and I took acid…”) and responding to a few shouted requests for Galaxie 500’s Rutles cover, “Cheese and Onions” by finally relenting during the encore.  “You said it three times.  That means I have to play it.  Like in that movie Candyman.”  He also dedicated a song to Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, asking if anyone knew which jail he was in, then asking, “Is it nice there?”  I didn’t realize he was such a witty guy.  He closed things off with a cover of New Order’s “Ceremony” that certainly ended things on a high note.

Galaxie 500-Ceremony by dvgf

Concert Review: Suede, December 7th, O2 Arena

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Everything, Music | 8 Comments

London – What can you write about a concert featuring your favorite band singing 23 of your favorite songs and you are freaking close to the stage even though the show is at the cavernous O2 Arena (a place that has amusement park rides on the concourse). Suede at the O2 arena was amazing, it was as expected, my favorite show of the year and everything was amazing. Let’s start off with the set list:

This Hollywood Life
The Drowners
Animal Nitrate
We Are The Pigs
Pantomime Horse
By The Sea
Killing Of A Flashboy
Can’t Get Enough
Everything Will Flow
The Next Life
The Asphalt World
So Young
Metal Mickey
The Wild Ones
New Generation
Beautiful Ones

The Living Dead
To The Birds
Saturday Night

With the exceptions of Still Life and Europe is My Playground, everything I really wanted to hear was covered. It was an hour and forty five minutes of literally non stop singing action, as the Suede blazed from one song to another.

Let’s start from the beginning. I rarely ever go to arena shows. I have never even been to a show at the ACC, so imagine the look on the security guard’s face when I asked him if there was coat check. Haha. The O2 arena is set up nicely. There’s many restaurants everywhere for food. I kinda wish the ACC had that same setup. I got there at the end of the New Young Pony Club set, just enough time to hear The Bomb, which was all I really wanted to hear from them. We had lodged ourselves to the left of the stage not too far from the front, so the time in between the end of the NYPC set and the beginning of the Suede set was spent making sure no one got in front of us. The crowd was older as expected, but there were still a few younger kids in the crowd. Those kids have good taste.

At 9:15, the lights dimmed and a recording of Introducing the Band played over the soundsystem. The band soon emerged, dressed in all black and they launched into a vicious version of This Hollywood Life. Normally, I am not the biggest fan of that track, but tonight, it sounded so lively that you had no choice but to love it. As you would expect, the rest of the night was one big sing-a-long. Brett’s voice sounded great and he’s a great front man. Between his dancing, microphone twirling, call and response and dramatic singing, it made every song seems so much more epic. Songs like Pantomime Horse had an extra oomph to it, that had you thinking “yeah, there’s still some justine-damon resentment there”.

At 10:15, they played Asphalt World. So at 10:15pm on December 7th, 2010, I heard my favorite song ever live for the very first (and potentially last) time. I was a bit sad they cut it off after the four minute mark, but I didn’t expect them to play the whole ten minute version (or the Bernard version, I guess).

The 1-2 punch of New Generation and The Beautiful Ones was a great way to end off the initial set, as the former was a fist raising rauncher while the latterr inspired what might be the one of the greatest LA LA LA LA sessions of all time. You might make fun of Suede for all the Oooohhs they incorporate into their music, but at a show, those OOhhs are golden. GOLDEN.

All in all an amazing show. Paul went in a bit skeptical about the show and came out wanting to buy a t-shirt. For me, it’s something to be able to finally see a band you’ve loved for about twelve years. It’s something else to see them live and watch them kick ass. I’m not sure where Suede is going from here, but I’m hoping it’s a North America tour, since I can’t really afford to fly to England for these concerts all the time.

The Asphalt World by The London Suede