Sunday 9 June 2024

James - Leeds First Direct Arena - 8th June 2024

James’ tour in support of their number one album Yummy rolled into Leeds First Direct Arena on Saturday night. A set of eight tracks taken from the record was mixed with most of their biggest singles and a couple of old friends.

Johnny Yen opens the night after a few parochial chants of “Yorkshire” as the band take to the stage. There’s an edge to the atmosphere that you often get on Saturday night and a guy near us hits the deck with blood coming from his mouth two songs in but thankfully it doesn’t boil over further. Johnny Yen’s magic is in its improvised middle section, an interaction between Jim and Saul, Tim prowling the stage urging Adrian on before finishing it atop Dave’s drum riser. Waltzing Along’s joyous hook line is perfect for these stages, a simple song in many respects but one which connects directly with the masses.

It’s followed by three songs from Yummy and as with the previous dates on this tour they’re warmly received, more so than newer songs from most of their post-reformation albums. Back when this tour was announced, before anyone outside the band’s circles had heard a note, they described it as arena-ready and they definitely have that feel. Our World’s tale of man-made destruction is set to a backdrop of TV screens showing the damage we’re inflicting on the planet.  Rogue’s quick fire and you sense them still tinkling with it to perfect it, Chloe starts it this time and there’s details in it different to the version they played in the VIP soundcheck a few hours earlier. Whilst there’s big moments in the set it’s also flying loose in parts and that’s when James are at their best. Life’s A Fucking Miracle sees Tim on the barrier and in the crowd for probably the most recognised of the new songs, particularly in the joyous chorus that would be perfect single material were it not for the shocking expletive in the chorus. There’s a touching moment at the end of it as Tim hugs the bouncer that brings him back over the barrier.  

Just Like Fred Astaire beautifully captures the joyous intimacy of love but frames it in universal connections and you suspect there’s a few in the room who had this as their wedding dance such was the paucity of love songs in James’ 1990s work. Before Ring The Bells Tim says that Leeds needs. cheering up but whilst their football team might remain rooted in the championship, James are living up to the 1970s Dutch team comparison that Tony Wilson gave them - always evolving, exceptionally gifted and talented and finding new ways to make even the normal things thrilling and vibrant. 

Better With You feels like an old friend, the interactions between Tim and Chloe wonderful to observe and when the song soars it fills the room even though it may be unfamiliar to many. The choir give it a glorious lift in the outro. Butterfly is played for the first time ever and has a similar effect, the control of the song’s build is exquisite, set to visuals that perfectly match up to the song. Whilst there might be rumblings on fan groups about roles on the record, on stage James are nine, thirteen if you count the choir, souls joined together by the music to create something that swallows everyone in the room.

Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) has Tim out amongst us again, crowdsurfing over a sea of raised arms and mobile phones. Shadow Of A Giant is a brave risk in such huge spaces but it has a magnetism to it in the wonderfully detailed patterns that it draws as it slow builds that takes most of the room with it.  It segues into a magnificent Out To Get You that’s the highlight of the night, a sea of arms around the arenas and singing back that almost drowns Tim out before Saul delivers a show-stopping violin solo.

Mobile God is the last of the Yummy tracks in the main set, complete with the digital manipulation of the screen images that complement the song’s message of the way phones have taken over most aspects of our existence. Tim tells us playfully that we should have done our homework if we don’t know these songs and we’d have had a really good evening if we had. 

It’s a precursor of course to a hit-laden ending to the set that some would have come for alone. Tomorrow, Come Home and Sometimes are built for bands to fill stadiums yet alone arenas and if James were a get your hits out type of band that’s probably what they’d be doing if they survived. But they’re not. Even these staples are twisted and turned. Sometimes had got a little tired as a set-closer on their terms, the singalong a little too predictable but with the choir they can play with it. The audience sings along at the end but it’s not the same as the night before in Glasgow. They stay the right side of the forced versus organic line.

A set of drums is brought on stage then removed before they return for the encore. Tim explains he was going to come up to the balconies but time and logistics didn’t permit. He introduces Way Over Your Head as the fan favourite from Yummy and at the end tells us the only difference between new songs and old favourites is time and repeated plays, it’s that simple. It does need an open mind but Leeds does that as the song swirls around the arena as the vocals layer on each other and hundreds of coloured butterflies grace the screens. The stunning on-screen imagery continues for Beautiful Beaches, now rightly an immovable presence in the setlist, such is the energy the nine-piece generate because it concludes in a cacophony of dual drums as the other seven turn and face Dave and Debbie.

“There’s time for one more so make the most of it” Tim tells us which means we weren’t going to get either Sit Down or Laid. We do eventually get both but the former is stopped as a woman passes out as the song kicks back in after the audience have taken it from the band. The gig is stopped for a couple of minutes while help arrives and when it resumes they finish the song and Saul leads them straight into Laid that has everyone in the arena on their feet for one final time and Tim down on the barrier. They take their bows having both stuck to their guns with eight songs from Yummy and given the nostalgia heads their fill of favourites too.

James tour at Cardiff Utilita Arena (June 11), Birmingham Utilita Arena (12), Manchester CO-OP Live (14), London O2 Arena (15), Lisbon Rock In Rio (22), Bedford Summer Sessions (July 6), Lytham Festival (7), Stornoway Hebcelt Festival (19), Ludlow Castle (25), Scarborough Open Air Theatre (26), Kingston Prism (August 23, two shows), Powderham Castle Gone Wild Festival (24), Dublin Collins Barracks (26), Thessaloniki Earth Theatre (September 3), Athens Lycabettus Theatre (5), Brazil Rock In Rio (September 14), Denver Paramount Theatre (17), Vancouver Queen Elizabeth Theatre (20), Seattle Moore Theatre (21), Portland McMenamins Crystal Ballroom (22), San Francisco The Garfield (23), Los Angeles Orpheum Theatre (25/26), Austin Stubb's (29), Dallas Majestic Theatre (30), Houston Bayou Music Center (October 1), Atlanta The Eastern (3), New Orleans The Fillmore (4), Washington Warner Theatre (6), Brooklyn Paramount (8), Boston Orpheum (10), Philadelphia Franklin Music Hall (11), Montreal MTLEUS (13), Toronto History (14), Detroit Masonic Temple (15), Chicago Riviera (17) and Saint Paul Palace Theatre (18).

James' official website can be found here. They are on Facebook and Twitter.  Some of the band - TimAndy and Dave - are also on Twitter.

We also run the One Of The Three James archive, the most detailed resource for information about the band, and the site also has a Facebook and Twitter page.

TimBoothLyricADay, whose posts often lead to Tim explaining his thought processes behind the lyrics, can be found on Twitter and Facebook

Razorlight's official site can be found here and they are on Facebook and Twitter.


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