Saturday 15 June 2024

James - Manchester CO-OP Live - 14th June 2024

James played their biggest ever sold out UK show at Manchester’s newest venue Coop Live on Friday night. Mixing tracks from their number one album Yummy with most of their biggest hits they demonstrated that you can still live and thrive as a band without simply playing the nostalgia card. 

23,500 tickets sold. A phenomenal achievement for a band that doesn’t get the acclaim of many of their contemporaries who sell less records, tread the album tour cycle and are the darlings of the press and radio. Even more so considering the constant moaning from a minority who declare their focus on new and less well known material isn’t giving the public what they want. The delicious proof of their yummy approach is in the pudding, if you pardon the bad pun.

The Coop Live is a venue of contrasts. The sound is excellent, the sight lines great from the seats but the stage low from standing. The lack of toilets in the main hall meant a constant flow through the crowd and the bars, or their processes, insufficient for a crowd of this size. The former resulted in a lot of piss being thrown and somehow a glass bottle that hit an unfortunate woman. Queues into the venue weren’t great at some entrances and we heard reports of disabled access issues. The staff in contrast were brilliant and plenty of them. 

James opened with Johnny Yen, a perennial favourite that sits in the “shoulda been” single category it once got labelled with. It’s a sign of the constant evolution of the band that it could have been written by them at any point in the last forty years. It ends with Tim on Dave’s drum riser and telling us that it was an ice-breaker. 

Ring The Bells follows, a glorious song that featured as a new unreleased track at their legendary 1990 G-Mex show in a day when people lived in the moment and let the band take them on a ride rather than pissing and moaning like spoilt brats on social media that Song A or Song B didn’t get played. It’s bigger and bolder than ever. Tim gets a few lyrics jumbled, tells us that if he does that he’s improvising. No one who gets the band minds because this is how they work. He also tells those in the seats that if they’re told to sit down they have his permission to stand up and dance and that the balconies are built to last. 

Next up are three tracks from their number one album Yummy that the band want to celebrate. Rogue and Life’s A Fucking Miracle are hit singles in another date and time and Tim comes down the front on the latter. Stay has a beautiful new vocal arrangement at the start, testament to their desire to not just twist the old but the new as well. Q

She’s A Star is one of the straightest takes of the evening but gets one of the biggest receptions. Sound takes us on a winding journey, improvising as the song moves through its many phases and a million miles away from its recorded roots. 

Butterfly and Better With You follow, two more from Yummy, and, if you exclude the stigma of nostalgia, stand up to anything else tonight. Butterfly sees them exhibit exquisite control of the pace and mood of the song, building to a glorious uplifting crescendo at the end. Better With You soars ecstatically into the chorus, the bright bubbly young and vibrant offspring of Fred Astaire. 

Out To Get You, which started life as a b-side, has lighters and arms aloft, and the crowd engaging in a call and response with the band before Saul’s showstopping violin solo. The bravest of the new songs Shadow Of A Giant follows with its majestic intro that builds and blossoms into glorious life. It’s a risk with a venue that could comfortably hold everyone in the country who bought a physical copy of Yummy, but the band are justifiably proud of it and have stuck to their guns playing eight songs from the album in rotation with only Folks not getting an airing.  

Jam J might not be one of their best known tracks even though it was part of a single package but its raw industrial power combined with a strobe onslaught on the senses makes it a perfect arena song. Sit Down brings everyone together, the more casual fans waiting for it as well as the long timers to whom in 1991 its success was a vindication of their love of the band. It’s an anthem of solidarity, of communion and piss throwers excepted it brings everyone together and the crowd take the song at the end and make it their own as they did at the G-Mex gig Tim references all those years ago. 

In typical James fashion they follow it with Way Over Your Head which Tim tells us we’ll love when we know it, making the point that all the big songs were once new, mostly played even before release when James sets were even more adventurous than they are now. Its outro is beautiful as band and choir combine and give it a life-affirming lift as colourful butterflies fill the screen. Mobile God is the final new song and the graphic trickery that turns band and audience into cyborgs on the big screens adds a stunning visual effect to one of Yummy’s strongest tracks. 

The end of the set is hit heavy. Tomorrow connects from the front of the room to the back while Sometimes is another moment of powerful potent communion where 23,000 mancs become an extended choir to compete with the four from the Manchester Inspirational Voices Gospel Choir. 

The encore kicks off with Come Home, a song that’s lost the spite of its early years but whose signature hook still sends the crowd wild. Beautiful Beaches feels made for rooms of this size especially as it reaches its conclusion of Debbie and Dave going for it with a wild dual drum onslaught. It finishes with Debbie’s exhilarated smiling face on the screens. 

Saul interjects before the start of the next song to pay tribute to Jim who started the band in 1981 and could never have imagined playing this size of stage 43 years later. He then states “this is our fucking theme song, take it away Chloe” as the opening bars of Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) strike up and the standing erupts in a heaving mass to a song whose place in James’ canon has grown over the years. The audience sing the first verse and chorus as Tim stands in awe of what’s going on in front of him.

Laid finishes the night with one final adrenaline fuelled head rush sending even those for whom eight new songs was an affront to their stuck in the past musical outlook. James are and always have been a band that live in the here and now, about creating unique experiences each night rather than the same tired repetitive rehearsed performance. 

James played Johnny Yen, Ring The Bells, Rogue, Life’s A Fucking Miracle, Stay, She’s A Star, Sound, Butterfly, Better With You, Out To Get You, Shadow Of A Giant, Jam J, Sit Down, Way Over Your Head, Mobile God, Tomorrow, Sometimes, Come Home, Beautiful Beaches, Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) and Laid

James tour at London O2 Arena (June 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


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