For a band of James’ stature and with a back catalogue as rich as theirs presenting a new album is always a difficult business. They’re selling the size of venues they do on their history despite their current output standing toe to toe with their past, but they’re awkward, contrary buggers and they believe in the new material and tonight they present eight of the songs that make up La Petite Mort, out next Monday.
Most people are hearing these new songs for the first time and, although, it’s a dedicated crowd from all four corners of the UK and beyond, you can feel the love in the room for the new songs. Current single Moving On closes the set and sees the ballroom raise its arms as one and sing along. Next single Curse Curse ditches some of its supposed techno elements but is still a massive piece of guitar driven rock that you can dance to. Walk Like You, All I’m Saying and Interrogation are beasts of songs that threaten to hit you like a tsunami and leave devastation in their wake despite the subject matter being death and self-analysis. Frozen Britain is a raucous mess, jaunty, slightly lop-sided and crazily brilliant. Quicken The Dead encompasses delightful piano rolls and an impassioned vocal, which Tim explains is about making the most of every moment because death is just round the corner. Even Bitter Virtue, the most dreamy, delicate, fragile beautiful song on the album, holds its own even though you can tell they’ve not quite nailed how they want to do it live yet.
The rest of the set is primarily greatest hits based save for a rampant Johnny Yen and an electronic onslaught of Jam J. Laid sees Tim down on the barrier, Tomorrow is as breakneck rollercoaster as always. Waltzing Along has continued its resurrection, and even Say Something has benefitted from a rest and sounds rejuvenated. Come Home sounds as relevant and vital today as it did twenty five years ago. Sound and Sometimes, as ever, never fail to amaze, the former descending into an improvised jam and the latter being brought to an abrupt end and taken, without prompting, by the crowd and sung back at the band. Getting Away With It is almost the band’s anthem now and it’s stretched out and given a new lease of life as a result.
The house lights almost come back up, but they come out for a second encore. Tim has already told us about their experience of playing a 2 minute version of Sit Down earlier in the evening for The One Show, but they skirt the obvious and give us a beautiful rendition of Top Of The World. Saul’s violin, as it often does when he picks it up, steals the show.
There’s a great camaraderie about James on stage these days. They seem at one, connected to each other, laughing and joking at each other’s expense, connecting wonderfully when they start to improvise. They now have a magnificent new album to take to their audience and make them love it. Last night was a perfect start.
James played Walk Like You, Laid, Johnny Yen, Waltzing Along, Frozen Britain, Quicken The Dead, Come Home, Tomorrow, Jam J, Bitter Virtue, All I’m Saying, Interrogation, Sound, Sometimes and Moving On with an encore of Say Something, Curse Curse and Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) and a second encore of Top Of The World.
La Petite Mort is out on Monday June 2nd on CD, 180g double vinyl with embossed sleeve and download and with a series of bundles available from James' web store.
James official website can be found here, where you can download a free version of Interrogation from the album and find details of summer festival shows and a November arena tour. They are on Facebook and Twitter. Some of the band - Tim, Larry, Andy and Dave - are also on Twitter.
Even The Stars also runs the James fan site One Of The Three which is also on Facebook.
Video credits - kristianlw account on youtube
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