17th March 2019 at The City Hall, Newcastle
We all have heard of the legendary seven piece indie pop icons who are James. Some say “James who?” And to that the their loyal following scream “IT’S A BAND!” Returning to Newcastle after time away from the north, every corner the City Hall was filled.
Being a raging fan of James from a young age, I grew up to their greatest hits from the 90s blasting in the car to and from school. My mum basically force fed me the words to ‘She’s A Star’ and quizzed me on ‘Laid’ – which now I see probably wasn’t a good song to go around the playground at the age of 6 singing “this bed is on fire with passionate love”. But the single most credible thing about one of Manchester’s finest band is that they are timeless. James had their moment and now they are having their time all over again since their split in 2001. Coming back with astounding music in 2007, fans were honestly amazed how their sound and image was still in tact. With tracks such as ‘Moving On’ and my personal favourite ‘Curse Curse’ in 2014 with the release of La Petite Mort, the hits just keep coming! Again, another immense release with the album ‘Girl At The End Of The World’ in 2016.
Continuing to break the rules, James tackled this tour with an unusual yet perfect idea. The band were their own headliner. Now even though this was an acoustic set, the crowd adored the idea that they’d have, in theory, two gigs for the price of one. It meant we could experience new tracks like ‘Coming Home’ in a more intimate environment yet also go mental at the live set later on in that night.
Tim Booth is certainly a very talented writer and focuses upon his own experiences to draw in on the emotion of each of his songs. Being a proud liberal activist and using this in his music, James’ political stance was demonstrated perfectly in this most recent tour for their latest album – Living In Extraordinary Times. Without being in yo1ur face, kicking and screaming their message until we are all deaf in the ears, ‘Many Faces’ is a tasteful and heart warming take on equality. This was one of the most beautiful things I have ever witnessed at a live show. Countless hands were raised in the air singing the lyrics:
“There’s only one human race, many faces, everybody belongs here”.
I haven’t felt such a part of something in an incredibly long time. The most touching thing was how family members of the band were brought on stage to make the message that more powerful. There was something eerie about this yet I was nearly brought to tears. One moment I did in fact cry however, was the realisation that I was going to hear the hit ‘Sit Down’ LIVE. I’m lucky enough to have seen this rarity once before at a festival in my hometown, Nottingham. It is common knowledge that you will not find the same sequence of songs at a James gig. Constantly mixing their set around, it keeps audiences on their feet and forever guessing what a surprise the night will be. However, Tim Booth wasn’t on his feet as he had injured his ankle prior to the City Hall gig. Yes this meant we were deprived of his adventurous balcony tactics but Tim held it together – still giving us his infamous dance moves. But I still think he felt somewhat upset we couldn’t get the full ‘James experience’. Instead we were generously given ‘Sit Down’ as a sort of sorry to which we had no complaints – and I mean, the band are more than forgiven!
I think Newcastle will always have a place in their hearts for James and they will always welcome them back with open arms.