I am not one for exaggerating things but this has to go down as one of my all-time favourite gigs in the history of the world, the universe, the galaxy, ever and ever and ever. Thinking about it there are a few James gigs that would make my top twenty, top ten and even top five. Tonight’s gig will certainly be up there. Everything about it was fantastic…..although my girlfriend had a few complaints…more of which later.
We got to the venue early, partly because we had to pick up tickets from the box office but mainly because of my usual worry filled personality. Always Need A Look at the venue before too many people have got there. I think on the whole I have got better over the years but in truth I still stress about the most ridiculous things. With concerts it really does just come down to not wanting to miss anything.
So being there early meant we got right to the front of the large Manchester Central. Previously the venue was known as the G-Mex but it had actually started life as the Manchester Central railway station. It still very much looks like a train station (but without the trains) and in December it certainly isn’t the warmest but being at the front meant we would be sure to get warmed up when the band was on stage.
Opening for James were Athlete, a band that have made good music down the years and have always been impressive musically. Live tonight they were certainly in good form. One criticism would be that they lack much in the way of edge or personality. If they walked down the street I’m not sure if they would recognise each other never mind anyone else recognise them. Ok so that is probably harsh and it has to be said that with Joel Pott’s huge voice they still have a lot of potential to build on the success of 2005’s breakthrough Tourist album. I certainly hope they do but maybe one of them will have to start dating a model or something, just to ‘up’ their profile. After all didn’t it work for TopLoader….?
The venue was packed when James took the stage…this after they had walked through the crowd from near the back to the front singing a wonderful version of Lose Control. Reaching the stage the band burst into She’s A Star before continuing with, what was to me anyway, an almost perfect set list. Playing the hits was always going to be a crowd pleaser but tonight some of the standout moments were the songs from the superb new album, Hey Ma. Upside is simply an awesome song. Of Monsters And Heroes And Men is beautiful. Ditto Bubbles. Oh My Heart a chorus filled joy. All wonderful.
It wasn’t all new songs tonight of course and of the older tracks….well where do I start? Getting Away With It is a personal favourite, Gold Mother was superb as always, a blast from the long distant past with Stutter and the main sets closing three songs, Tomorrow, Sit Down and Sound with Tim’s dancing reaching awe inspiring levels yet again.
It was midway through the gig when the moshing really started and I was in full flow as I and fellow James ‘nuts’ danced in our best Tim Booth style….without the style. This was enough for Lorraine who decided that she didn’t want to be in ‘the middle of a load of blokes in their thirties trying to relive their youth’ and so she made a hasty retreat to the outer boundaries of the mosh area.She enjoyed the rest of the show from there but as for me I was proud to be one of those ‘thirtysomethings’ and moshed away to my heart's content.
The encore was even better. Say Something started off, and then Sometimes was sung by the whole place. A glorious Laid finished the encore bringing unbridled joy to everyone as fans got on stage, as is tradition, to dance along in classic James manic style to the indie classic. The band took their bows and the crowd roared their approval. There was yet more though as they came on for a second encore to play Out To Get You. A great way to finish what was a great show. No not just a great show. A f*king brilliant show.
James have never being afraid to try new things, new ways of playing old songs, they have never gone through the motions. Whether the six year break has made them appreciate what they had before or not I’m not sure but after tonight they must realise that us James fans never want them to do anything as stupid as breaking up again. Wonderful stuff and my only disappointment is not getting a ticket for the next night.
Ticket: December 19th 2008
Ticket Price: £29.50