James are busy lads these days...what with pouring out new music and playing gigs of all shapes and sizes. Strange for a group that formed over 30 years ago. Luckily that is a very good thing as on both record and stage they are a band on a creative high. Tonight we are here at Scala to see them preview their new album, The Girl At The End Of The World, and follows a similar sold out show in Manchester the day before.
Arriving on stage just after 8pm this was an 'anything can happen' type of show from James. They are pretty good at them it must be said. They often seem to fly by the seat of their pants which somehow always makes for great live performances. This is a band that never takes it easy and there are never two James shows the same. Tonight was no different. Indeed here we have no Larry on guitar, as his break from live duties continues. Instead though we have the excellent Adrian Oxaal in his place as well as extra backing vocals (and more) from Ron Yeadon.
'Welcome to the cock up show', Tim warned when they walked on stage...and sure enough first song (and new album opener) Bitch had an immediate false start...however if anyone had any doubts about what was to come then the second attempt would have set them straight. The song showcases the band in full with long intro and no holding back from Booth. He went straight into his full on crazy dance moves (impossible to copy...I once tried...it didn't end well). What follows is a set made up of ten tracks from the new record and a healthy selection of older songs. To My Surprise , Catapult, and Move Down South are all welcome additions to the James world. The new album's title track has an odd beginning but builds brilliantly and in Attention, which closes the main set here, they have another live corker.
For a gig where the band plays their new, as yet unreleased, album in its entirety (almost) you would be forgiven for thinking there would be some shuffling of feet in the crowd. This is James though. They don't do feet shuffling. Each new song is ecstatically received but only after being listened to respectfully (I'll ignore the intermittent balcony noise...I think Tim put them right in his own way). OK so this may not be the toughest audience for the band but there is no doubting the quality of the new material. Yes there are mistakes but each is met with humour and jokes at each other's expense (I'm looking at you Saul). Above all else it is clear that this is a band at ease with itself and loving every minute.
There is a sprinkling of classics including Top of the World (always beautiful), Senorita (from the massively underrated Pleased to Meet You), Waltzing Along (is it really 19 years old?), the sing-along Say Something and Millionaires single Fred Astaire. It is noticeable though that, of the old songs, the brace from last years Le Petite Mort stand out, one of which, Moving On (played as the first song of the encore here) is equal to anything they have produced in their long history. Joyous (and I mean JOYOUS!) new single Nothing But Love finishes the first encore and is so good they play it again during the second. Trust me it really is that great. In fact stop reading this and download it now).
This was my first visit to the impressive Scala, a venue that is a great size for a great atmosphere. Of course it helps that the band that is playing is impressive as well. In this case we have a band that are at the top of their game and long may it continue. Leaving the venue wasn't easy unfortunately as the 20 minutes in the cloak room queue was pretty painful (one guy left his jacket behind as he had a train to catch) and dodging the empty cans of Red Stripe littering the stairs slowed our exit somewhat. Minor gripes though. A top venue.
I have two more James gigs booked for later in the year and I wouldn't bet against me adding more. One of the best live bands I have ever seen with one of the best front men around. Their second coming since reforming in early 2007 continues apace. They may fly by the seat of their pants sometimes and they may have been getting away with it (all messed up) for years...but bloody hell they ain't half good at it.
Ticket: February 18th 2016
Ticket Price: £35.00