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

Posted on by Paul in Concerts | 1 Comment

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: James, September 30, Queen Elizabeth Theatre

Posted on by Ricky in Concerts, Everything | 4 Comments

James, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto

Toronto – WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO. Just one day after I wrote about not wooing at shows, I found myself doing it excessively at the Queen Elizabeth Theater. The difference however, was everyone in the audience was also doing it. Still, kinda hypocritical. Anyways, James was in town Thursday night to play to a sold out show at Queen Elizabeth Theatre. They were here to promote their double releases this year – The Morning After and the Night Before but lets not kid ourselves here. Everyone in the crowd (most nearing 40 or over) was here for the hits. To say James delivered in spades would be an understatement.

At 9:15. The lights went out, except for a singular spot light pointing to an entrance near the end of the crowd. Whadyya know? It’s Tim Booth and Larry Gott, kicking off the show in a spectacular fashion – an acoustic version of Sit Down. Watch my video here, and excuse my singing:

It’s such a brilliant start. I would imagine that 80% of this crowd was here for the Phoenix show a few years ago and they, like me, made a mental note about how Sit Down was not played at that show. So what happens? James starts off with that song, and walks through the crowd. Fantastic.

It’s hard to describe what it feels like to be at a James show except that if you are a fan, or even a casual music fan, it would be hard to not get caught up in the tidal wave of enthusiasm that goes through the crowd and ultimately reflects back on the band. Tim Booth does his usual Tim Booth dance and is a master on stage, often engaging the crowd, leading us on, guiding us on a journey through out the night. Sure he does it every night, but you never get a sense that it’s a routine. There’s a certain amount of humility and genuine honesty that James has that makes them seem like such a personal band, despite making pretty standard (but completely awesome) pop music.

The one obvious highlight for me was that they played Tomorrow, a song they decided to skip the last time around. It’s easily one of my favorite songs of all time and has been for well over a decade. So needless to say, when you hear a favorite song of yours live for the first time ever, it gets pretty freakin epic.

Obviously, the middle stages of the set featured some new tracks off the double album, including Porcupine, Dust Motes and It’s Hot. I don’t think everyone in the audience was familiar with these songs and reacted accordingly, which may have frustrated Tim Booth a little. He tried his best to get the crowd dancing, but while a lot of them where, there were more who didn’t. Perhaps it was the seated arrangement. It’s always a bit odd to dance in a seated venue, but maybe that’s just me.

Following Dust Motes, the band went into overdrive – a steady flow of hits followed – 5-0, Stutter, Say Something, Laid and the set closer Sound. Laid featured an onstage invitation and was as awesome as you expect it to be:

A rapturous ovation lead to the band returning for a planned encore of Out to Get You and Sometimes, the latter resulting in a massive sing a long. A second encore did not occur. I was kind of expecting them to come back out to sing Come Home but the Queen Elizabeth Theatre people quickly turned the lights on and played background music. Maybe they wanted to go home. I dunno, I don’t think anyone else did.

In conclusion, it was an epic night and this was my favorite show of the year so far. The great thing is, I get to see them twice more this year in England. 2010 has been good to me.

Set list (stolen from wearejames.com)

Porcupine by ‘James’