Following the success of James’ new album and flirtation with the Number 1 spot of the UK Album Charts, along with the universally acclaimed warm up shows at Manchester Academy 2 and London’s Scala, the band are about to embark upon a 15-show tour of the UK – with the first being at an old favourite on the gig circuit – the stunning Colston Hall in Bristol. With its fabulous acoustics and cantilevered seating area, both band and fans enjoy playing here and it promises to be a great opener to the highly anticipated tour, before heading off to play a variety of venues, small and large, around the country.
We will be following the band on the tour and bringing you all the news – along with setlists, videos, photos and hopefully a few chats with band members and also crew members and a sly peek backstage to have a look at what actually goes into bringing the 2-hour performance that we are all familiar with but know so little about how it all comes about.
Your roving Girl at the End of the Laptop will keep you all informed – and if you have any pressing questions, get in touch and we will do our very best to help.
If you are not already a member, join one of the Facebook groups – One Fan Clapping and James Fanzone Scotland (all welcome, not just Scottish fans), where you will find a friendly crowd to chat with and if you need to buy or sell a ticket at face value, people in the groups can often help, as well as the official Event section on the James official Facebook page.
So, back to Bristol… we shall update you as soon as we get there and stick our nose round the door – watch this space!
Well – what an opening night for the long awaited James tour! In usual James style, they have decided to play around with the whole setup and format of the shows and presume that they will continue to swap things around and experiment with the gigs, making use of the layout of different venues.
For those of us who were at the warm up gigs, we were expecting an explosive entrance with Bitch, or certainly something from the new album – but no, this band constantly surprises and delights us… following an excellent set from the Slow Readers Club, the black curtained backdrop was left in place and Jim, Saul, Adrian and Tim wandered nonchalantly onto the stage in front of it and eased their way into the tour with a lovely, almost acoustic rendition of She’s A Star, with Jim’s new acoustic bass and Adrian on cello. Halfway through, Andy Diagram wandered equally nonchalantly up behind the four, adding a beautiful trumpet line to the song – which then was followed by an equally beautiful version of Just Like Fred Astaire, with the backdrop lifted to bring the rest of the band into the mix. Not the start anyone was expecting and although lovely, may not be the best time to do this little intimate acoustic set – a little later in the show as a breather would probably fit better.
They then launch into four of the new songs – “I hope you’ve all got the new album” says Tim as the opening bars of the magnificent Bitch change the mood completely from intimate to full on and explosive. Both Catapult and Surfers Song stall at the beginning – something we half expect from a band who not only are playing such new stuff live but also changing it and experimenting already with different ways of playing it.
Move Down South – an unusual song in its non traditional construction – follows and Tim’s tale of the dry, dusty area of California where he lives, with its dried up wells and frequent forest fires makes the spine tingle – and the harmonies from the rest of the band, something that is becoming more prevalent in both revived old songs and the new ones, are sublime, underpinning Tim’s vocal beautifully.
Speaking of revived old songs with harmonies, We’re Going To Miss You is a welcome addition to the set and will hopefully be played at several more shows on the tour. It is more of a spell than a song – written as a protection against a curse sent to Tim by an ex who was a witch – in Paganism, a mirror carried facing outwards will reflect ill intent back to the sender threefold.
Sometimes switches the focus for the singalong and harmonies back to the crowd, who happily accept the movement of this classic to the middle of the set rather than the end and don’t seem to mind not being able to carry it on alone for several minutes afterwards. Then a welcome return to the album with a pair of songs that work well together – Alvin and Waking – the former having its lyrics mangled by Tim even though he has them in front of him! No one minds, many won’t even have noticed – the song is crazy, it shouldn’t work at all but the happiness of the bouncy feel of random French coupled with the slide guitar intro can’t help but make you smile and sing along with the “little lurve” sections. Waking, with its political lyrics and divine trumpet line sees Andy get a chance to take centre stage. Dressed all in black tonight, he and Tim perform little duets throughout the show, Tim singing to him and the trumpet answering back.
The album title track is next and although most of us probably know the story behind it now, Tim constantly tries to tell it in a different way – since he first told us about Jim’s near miss, which Jim seems constantly mock-annoyed that everyone thinks is amusing, Tim has also had a crash on the Freeway – “We didn’t die” he assures us….
We move into a slower and more intimate set of three songs – the gentle Feet of Clay, another revived classic from Laid, One Of The Three which was written about the kidnapped Church of England envoy Terry Waite, and Dear John. Again, the emphasis on singing duties is shifting from Tim to bringing Jim, Saul, Adrian, Andy and Ron much more into the mix, giving a much richer sound to the songs, which especially works well in this venue, geared acoustically towards theatre and classical music.
Another two from the back catalogue follow – songs that have been played fairly frequently but are always greeted with enthusiasm as they are requested more often than they are actually played – Tomorrow and Say Something. Tomorrow has the crowd dancing whilst Say Something holds them spellbound – with Tim held aloft on the barrier and then further back into the crowd.
Sound – a song that has been played so many times yet is always being added to, always different and which is one that speaks straight to so many people with its “Do everything you fear” line again manages to surprise us – halfway through Andy disappears, reappearing up on the balcony, his black shirt swapped for a bright white one, with his white Tromba plastic trumpet adorned with a red LED strip tracing its outline and with the lighting director picking him out with a UV spotlight so that he and the trumpet glow.
The main part of the show concluded with Attention – a wonderful new song of two sections that they took ages to be able to link, and only did so with Brian Eno’s help. They have played around with the connecting section, elongating it and making the transition into the second part much smoother and it almost makes it a completely different song.
With that, the band leave the stage, to rapturous applause and demands for more. After a few minutes, a spotlight lights up the back of the auditorium and the strains of a mandolin strike up yet another new version of Sit Down – with Tim and Adrian making their way through the audience downstairs, whilst those upstairs strain to see what they are missing. Again, with such a massively familiar song, James are still able to surprise us and put a totally new slant on it!
The sad but still uplifting Moving On follows – with what may well be the new regular ending (although we can never take anything for granted with this band!) of Nothing But Love has everyone’s arms aloft and singing along and the crowd is awash with smiles as the band finally take their bows and leave the stage. In the style of Sometimes, this Girl witnessed several people wandering out through the Colston Hall foyer still singing “Nothing But Loooooove”, so it appears another classic singalong is born!
- She’s A Star
- Just Like Fred Astaire
- Surfers Song
- Move Down South
- We’re Going To Miss You
- Girl At The End Of The World
- Feet Of Clay
- One Of The Three
- Dear John
- Say Something
- Sit Down
- Moving On
- Nothing But Love
Video courtesy of Becca
With apologies, we had some camera issues for this gig – there will be a full, good quality gallery for all other showsGallery