|Current music:||James - Why So Close|
James - Live @ Manchester Evening News Arena, 28/04/2007
"We are James, and we have come home!"
Wow. I really have been neglecting this thing, huh? There's a simple reason - there hasn't actually been much in the way of worthy music to analyse. I've been to a couple of gigs since I last updated (Sigur Ros, who were weird, and KT Tunstall, for whom you can just re-read the old review, because it was for all intents and purposes the same gig); and bought a few CDs - although it was mid-March this year before I bought a new album. Which says it all, really.
However, this is James. And they deserve a little bit more of a write-up.
A quick recap, for those not so up on the trials and tribulations of these buggers - after the phenomenal success of Sit Down and Laid, a Best Of album in 1998 romped to the top of the charts and sold umpteen thousand copies to people who heard the other sixteen tracks and thought "Oh, is that a James song?". Two albums later, internal tensions and the conclusion of their record contract finally tore them apart and, following a final tour in 2001, Tim Booth (lead singer) left the band.
Then everything went a bit quiet. Booth trod the boards, released another solo album and appeared in Batman Begins. Several other band members were released to start their own solo projects, and James were a defunct entity in all but official statement. The reality, as it turned out, was even weirder - founder member from way back in 1981 Jim Glennie (bass) and former member who left in 1995 to start a business making furniture and returned in 2001 for what was popularly regarded to be a farewell tour Larry Gott (guitar) took up residence in a warehouse in Manchester and spent the next five years jamming. (Nobody officially writes James songs - basically, they'd all piss around and jam for a bit, and Tim would talk random shit by way of improvised vocals, and before they knew what was going on they'd have an awesome song called Tomorrow. When they left this approach, and tried to write songs in The Proper Way, it resulted in the much-maligned Millionaires - a great album, but possibly a little too tightly constrained and subsequently virtually disowned by the band; the setlist shown below includes nothing from this album and is, apart from the recorded jam sessions that resident loony Brian Eno turned into Wah Wah, the only album in their catalogue not represented.)
Anyway, Tim reportedly turned up for one of these jam sessions in late 2006 and things seemed to work (time heals all wounds, yadda yadda), and a couple of phonecalls later they'd managed to find another three band members, resulting in the same sextet that recorded the legendary Laid album back in 1993. They planned a tour, and on January 26th at 9am a hundred thousand tickets went on sale. And sold out in half an hour.
I know this seems like a lot of backstory for what is supposed to be a gig review. But one of the reasons I enjoyed this concert so much is the fact that, at one stage, it looked like it was never going to happen. This is, however, the time of the reunion, with every ex-band ever deciding to put their differences aside to milk the cash cow one last time.
And so to the gig. Because the album they're hocking is a two disc 33-track complete singles retrospective called Fresh As A Daisy (in all good record shops today, folks - although not SportCity Asda, they've run out), there's a few really really ancient tracks and odd album pieces in the mix alongside thirteen of the usual suspects from that Best Of. Those are probably the tracks I enjoyed the most, simply because they're rare beasts on the live set - because that Best Of was so successful, a lot of people at these sorts of gigs don't actually know most of the other work, so those tracks can fall flat very easily. Happily, that didn't happen here - the old tracks were welcomed warmly, and the new tracks (Who Are You, ace; Chameleon, even more ace; and Upside Downside, very good if clearly unfinished) also received rapturous attention. It's still the classics that get the arena jumping, of course; Sit Down and Laid were the last tracks before the encores and were met as would be expected, Sometimes featured Tim dancing around on the safety barriers, he spent most of Say Something in the middle of the crowd, and by Johnny Yen (not on the Best Of, but an absolute staple of the live set) he was writhing around on his back in the middle of the stage. Weirdo. The slow-burning Out To Get You becomes an epic as a live track, and a beautifully stripped down She's A Star propelled the concert to an excellent finale. It all bodes well for the future of a band who, in 1988, were so broke that they had to submit themselves for medical experiments to get some cash. How times change.
Support: The fucking Twang, fucking who fucking had fucking a fucking insistence fucking on fucking saying fucking "fucking" fucking every fucking other fucking word. Fucking not fucking much fucking cop, fucking either.
Ring The Bells
Hymn From A Village
Who Are You
Out To Get You
Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
Sometimes (Lester Piggott)
She's A Star
How Was It For You?