After two fabulous shows in the west and east of the country, the emphasis for the tour now shifts to the capital. James could easily have booked one show at a much bigger arena but as everyone reading this knows, that’s not their style – they’d rather play three smaller shows and be able to connect with that smaller audience than one money making big show that will end up disappointing many by its lack of intimacy. Sadly, the original venue at Shepherd’s Bush is having major renovations made to its roof and has had to relocate all of its recent shows elsewhere, hence two of the James gigs both now being at Kentish Town Forum, tonight and Friday.
Despite emails being sent out by the band and venue, some fans still turned up at Shepherd’s Bush and had to be sent across London and something went very wrong for two Danish fans who were booked on thee VIP soundcheck and neither their tickets nor their VIP info had materialized. True to James fans form though, they were taken under people’s wings, smuggled into the venue with the early birds, pointed in the direction of the people to talk to and looked after.
Again, the confidence of the support band, The Slow Readers Club, is rising with each show they play and they are gaining a lot of fans in the James audience – both Saul and Andy have been spotted enjoying their set and Aaron and his bandmates are much more relaxed – although he could do with working on a bit more animation when introducing the band and the songs.
As with previous shows, Tim hopes that people have heard the new album, as we launch into five songs from it – it’s amazing how many people will come to see a band who are obviously making new music and have named their tour after their new record and yet are disappointed that it’s not some kind of nostalgiafest – this is a band always moving forwards, where even their back catalogue is played around with, updated and added to. Anyone attending the Hardwick Festival last year will have had the misfortune of experiencing 10cc – technically brilliant, but choreographed and sounding exactly like the CD, making their set soulless and depressing – if that’s what you like, then James aren’t the band for you!
Move Down South seems to be becoming the choice of opener, as Walk Like You did last time – like the latter, an unusually constructed and long album track which sounds like it shouldn’t work but immediately captivates all but the most hardened nostalgia fan, with its soaring harmonies.
The setlist is similar to that of Southend in the order of songs, though with a couple of surprises slotted in. To My Surprise is followed by Catapult and Tim’s first foray into the crowd by way of a short stage dive from the barrier where he is gently held aloft then passed back over the barrier and immediately climbs back up to finish the song, with the duo of Alvin and Waking completing five songs from the new album. Tim tells us that his French is appalling, and that he was really not looking forward to a visit today from French magazine Paris Match – who for some reason, to Tim’s great relief, didn’t show up!
He takes to the stage in a cream fur gilet – even the heat of the venue and our little spell of warm sunshine not enough to banish the chills from leaving the warmth of California – with Andy in a satin-look white shirt, which ensures they both stand out in the darkness of the venue. The Forum is an old, traditional venue with a smaller feel, despite it holding more than Shepherd’s Bush would have done. Surprisingly for such a venue, several people comment that the sound tonight seems a little muffled and ‘muddy’, especially compared to the two previous nights. Whether this is down to the layout and construction of the venue, not as high and open as the newer ones, we don’t know but can only hope it’s been spotted and rectified for Friday night – but reports from further back in the venue are positive, so this seems to be something to do with the acoustics of the venue rather than the sound from the mixing desk.
Ring The Bells finally cheers up the nostalgia seekers, along with Sometimes and then straight into Bitch – the long intro again getting the crowd dancing along with Tim. Surfers Song follows and then the familiar opener to another classic to keep everyone dancing kicks in – Come Home, traditionally demanded in Manchester but a reminder that despite the Mancunian ties, everyone’s home is now spread out from the western US, across to Scotland, Wales and London.
Girl At The End Of The World is up next and with a slightly different arrangement again – despite these songs being so new to us, they’re over a year old to the band and they are working on tweaking and adding to them live all the time. We slip into the trio of One Of The Three, She’s A Star and Fred Astaire, the former leading the mood into the acoustic setup, with Fred Astaire building back up out of it.
A welcome reappearance of a favourite from La Petite Mort is our next surprise – with Andy’s mellow Flugelhorn introduction replicated live with the help of his electronic box of tricks to be able to play it through the trumpet. Dear John follows in its traditional guise, though during the VIP, the soundcheckers had been told about its original, very different lyrics and the idea had been mooted whether or not to play it in that original form – maybe that will be a treat for later in the tour, we will have to wait and see!
To the delight of those either at Southend the previous night and those who had heard about it, Honest Joe made another appearance – we can only wonder what the nostalgia lot make of it – it’s certainly an old song but whether it fits into their narrow minded range of preferences is debatable! But never mind them – both those who love the song and those hearing it for the first or second time allowed themselves to be carried away in its chaotic beats and flashing lights. It leads again into Sound which again keeps everyone dancing but able to sing along too. Andy again makes a foray into the crowd, climbing along the barrier with his glowing UV trumpet and reflective shirt bringing the song to a visual as well as aural climax and he clambers back onto the stage to swap the mouthpiece on the white trumpet back to his traditional one in time for Attention – again being tweaked and altered each time it’s played.
Those of us expecting another acoustic rendition of Sit Down from the back of the auditorium are again surprised, with the encore starting on stage with Say Something. Tim climbs down from the stage and along the side of the crowd to the steps up to the balcony above – almost stopped by a security bloke who obviously isn’t paying attention to proceedings! The spotlight follows his progress through the centre of the seats to the opposite set of stairs and back down, with the song ending long before he reaches the stage again – so true to James improvisational form, Jim, Saul and Andy continue the song huddled together in the centre of the stage, adding an unexpected new section to the song and seem almost reluctant to end it when Tim joins them and stands listening to their jam session.
Nothing But Love and Moving On bring the evening to a close – with Andy donning a pair of bright red heart shaped sunglasses for the former, far more fitting to the song than the CND ones he wore on the One Show, but less likely to have annoyed the BBC than the ones he chose that night! The crowd bay for more and the house lights stay down for a few moments and we hope that a second encore may be on the cards but that’s all they have time for – until their return here on Friday night – who knows what will happen then?
- Move Down South
- To My Surprise
- Ring The Bells
- Surfers Song
- Come Home
- Girl At The End Of The World
- One Of The Three
- She’s A Star
- Just Like Fred Astaire
- Dear John
- Honest Joe
- Say Something
- Nothing But Love
- Moving On
Video courtesy of (Gigs) Kris LW
Video courtesy of Andy Petrou