James are a band that I have let slip into the shadows, yes I’m a fan but I have let other bands of their genre overtake and mask the quality of their music. It’s only in recent years that I have listened to their material properly and I have for sure been depriving myself.
James came to fruition in Manchester in 1982 when Paul Gilbertson, Jim Glennie, and Gavin Whelan met Tim Booth at Manchester University and asked him to join the band. It was in 1982 at a gig at the Haçienda that James caught the attention of ‘Tony Wilson’ and were offered a deal to sign to the infamous Factory Records. James toured with ‘The Smiths’ in 1985 which saw them being dubbed as their protégés, praise from Morrisey turned out to be both a blessing and a curse. James continued to tour constantly throughout the late 80’s/early 90’s and achieved great success with tracks including ‘Come Home’, She’s a Star’ and ‘Laid’. The band went on to release 9 albums until they split in 2001 before reuniting and releasing a further 6 albums including the most recent ‘Living in Extraordinary Times’.
When I arrived at the O2 Guildhall Southampton around half an hour after opening the venue was already half to three quarters full which is pretty odd in normal circumstances. I soon found out that James were their own support act for the evening and would playing an acoustic set. It’s quite unusual for a band to play two sets like this and the only other time I’d experienced this is when I saw David Gray at The Roundhouse in London around 12 or more years ago. The acoustic set consisted of 7 songs which included ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’.
James effortlessly accelerated through their main set that consisted of 17 songs which was a great mixture of the new material and old which included ‘Hank’, Extraordinary Times’, ‘Laid’, ‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’ and ‘Come Home’. Lead singer Tim Booth certainly has the moves and parades around the stage with the music flowing through him and expressing himself freely, at times I was transfixed. There was a platform at the front between the stage and crowd which ran the width of the safety barrier, Tim was jumping from stage to the platform with a megaphone in hand serenading the crowd before diving into the middle of them.
At the front of the crowd on the barrier there were a fair few people that had orange wristbands, I believe they had paid for the VIP experience for the gig. During the encore Tim reached into the crowd and grabbed a few individuals to come up on stage with the band and dance around to “Many Faces’ and ‘Sound’, you could see the elation in the expressions of the people chosen and it was great way to help finish the gig. The most obvious choice would have been for the band to play ‘Sit Down’ to finish but having just been known for this song in their earlier years, they didn’t play this, and I think that shows a sign of the depth of their back catalogue and that their rebellious nature is still there.