Line Up: James / Ride / Sparks
Festival crowds can be the worst. People drinking all day, too pissed to watch any of the bands on display, barging into everyone around them, spilling drink on those sat down as they stumble by. The joys. At least the sun was shining (although thunder and lightning were on show in the distant sky) and Oxford looked its magnificent best.
There are many great things about festivals (I'm not completely all about the negative). The crowd was mixed with ages ranging from 1 to 80 which is pretty fantastic. Some were there for the day out, some to bounce on the world's largest bouncy castle (so wanted to have a go), others to see specific bands and yes some just to get wasted. We missed much of the festival antics however as we only arrived on site for 7pm. Just in time to catch a bit of Sparks (who were very good) and an excellent, joint headline, set from 90's shoegazers Ride. For us though the day was all about James.
Without doubt, one of the finest live bands around, James have been on a creative roll since reuniting in 2007. The band and especially lead singer Tim Booth love a challenge and are not afraid to play the unexpected. Not many artists would open a festival set with two brand new songs. We really needn't have worried though. The first, Hank, is a wall of sound in which we see James newbie Debbie Knox-Hewson giving it her all on the second drumkit. The second, Better Than That, feels as though it has been around for ever. An instant James classic.
Booth is one brave front man. Crowd surfing at a festival where some in the crowd are either too drunk or not interested in what's going on is a pretty risky thing to do. He does it well though, however people please listen to me, why do you feel the need to slap his shiny bald head. Every time. It really is beyond me (ok admittedly I am a fellow baldy and feel his pain).
Ring The Bells and Come Home are next up before the latter's sequel, Coming Home (Pt. 2) (which has every chance of being around in the James set for years to come). After another brace of new tracks (Leviathon and Heads), Out To Get Me has the, now more attentive, crowd singing in full. The ever playful Saul jokingly announces that they would be playing another new song...which, as he says, went down like a lead balloon, only for them instead to play an outstanding acoustic version of Sit Down. Nothing But Love and Moving On, two tracks from recent albums, sit as classics now in the James set. Both are excellent with Moving On in particular possibly one of the very best songs this band has recorded. Many Faces and Attention are next before Laid, Sometimes and Getting Away With It bring the set home in crowd pleasing style.
A mixed festival crowd is always going to be hard work but the set seems well balanced and it is interesting how well recent tracks from the last few albums sit in alongside the older classics. This is a band though (Jim Glennie, Tim Booth, Andy Diagram, Saul Davies, Adrian Oxaal, David Baynton-Power and Mark Hunter) whose members are all hugely talented and continue to be creative and never stand still. Indeed the addition of Debbie to the touring line up has given the lads an extra kick up the backside. Debbie's web site simply says 'drummer' but it would seem that Tim now also has competition in the mad dancing stakes as well.
James maybe 35 years down the line but they are better than ever. Wonderful stuff. Go see them.
Note: New album 'Living in Extraordinary Times' is coming in August...and can be pre-ordered here
Ticket: May 27th 2018
Ticket Price: £32.50