Tuesday 4 June 2024

James / Razorlight - Aberdeen P&J Live - 3rd June 2024

James opened their UK arena tour in the North East of Scotland with their first ever visit to the P&J Live arena and their first visit to the city since 2008. Playing a predictably varied set of songs taken from their recent number one album Yummy as well as dipping in and out of forty years plus of hits and with beautiful accompanying visuals and crystal clear sound, they presented a new record they're justifiably proud of in detail alongside some more familiar songs. Support came from Razorlight.

"This is real music, no backing tracks..." Johnny Borrell tells us half way through their well-received set and whilst Razorlight may have their detractors based on the image they picked up in their halcyon days, he very much has a point. They're not just resting on their laurels either - of course their big songs are in the set, opening with In The Morning and finishing with America as well as Stumble And Fall and Before I Fall To Pieces, but they also put in two as yet unreleased songs Scared Of Nothing and Dirty Luck that more than stand their corner against the more familiar songs around it. Best of all is an extended In The City that sits mid-set that throws off Doors vibes, draws the audience in and takes them on the ride with them. With Borrell's vocals centre-stage strong, powerful and direct throughout, they may have surprised many tonight who might have thought they were simply here to reel off the hits and look back.

James make a very low-key entrance as the arena music stops and they make their way slowly onto stage. Debbie starts off playing bongos then stops, Jim laughs that it's a new one they've just made up and the band suppress their laughter. You always get the sense that they're flying by the seat of their pants at times and there's a few moments tonight where they do just that, switching the set around, improvising sections of songs and following their music's lead.  Tim comments half way through that they're not the band to play the same songs every night in any room in the world. Some of those around us clearly don't get that, but it's absolutely key to the longevity of the band and the spirit that makes them so unique yet has possibly held them back from greater commercial success.

That said tonight they play eight songs from their number one album Yummy, although their Radio 2 playlisted key focus track / single / whatever they call them these days Our World isn't one of them; a move that few other bands would pull off. 

They start with a run of four from Yummy - a vastly rearranged version of Is This Love, unrecognisable at the start, opens things up and rather than play it straight they've already effectively made the recorded version obsolete with the new take that's more raw and hits deeper aided by the voices of four of the Manchester Inspirational Voices Gospel Choir. Hey follows and is the first track of the night with the dual drums of Dave and Debbie that gives the song a harder edge. Tim plays with the lyrics referencing the January 6 coup attempt in the US. Mobile God is harsher, befitting its status as such on the album itself and is accompanied by some incredible work on the screen behind where the images are transformed so the band transform being human and cyborg as the cameras point at them. The run of four is completed by Life's A Fucking Miracle, which sees Tim out on the barrier seeking a strong arm to hold him up. 

Any sense of audience unease at so much new material, from their number one album remember, is allayed by the trio of Ring The Bells, Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) and Johnny Yen. The former always brings the energy of the room up and unlike some songs from that 1990-93 era never seems to need a rest or refreshing as its building momentum invigorates both the band and audience. Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) has become an unofficial anthem of sorts for the band and keeps the audience energy high; once again the visuals add to the song, the multi-colour pattern of the new daisy logo being used to colour the images on the big screen behind the band to quite beautiful effect. Chloe starts the song with an acoustic guitar and Debbie prowls the stage, tambourine in hand, lost in the song as if she'd escaped from the audience to join in (although more graceful than most of the ten thousand or so would have been). Johnny Yen is a tightrope walk, the improvised section stretched out as Saul's violin and Andy's trumpet weave their magic centre stage while Tim seeks out his bandmates to urge them on one by one. At the end Saul calls it Highland folk music.

What follows then is the two tenderest moments of Yummy - the gorgeous dreamy Shadow Of A Giant and the wistful Stay wrapped around the violent assault of Jam J which goes down sonic avenues we wish the band would explore more given the explosive nature of it and its brother in arms Honest Joe. Shadow Of A Giant has the choir back who along with Chloe take the song into the stratosphere. It's a brave choice in an arena where many won't necessarily have invested themselves in Yummy, such is the crippling yearning for nostalgia that's strangling new music, from established artists as well as new ones, but it's melodic beauty is one of the highlights of both the record and tonight's set.

Tim knocks over his drink, Saul plays the first bars of Born Of Frustration which gets the audience expectation up even though it's not next on the list. They play it and Tim, to the obvious surprise of the camera men who struggle to follow his movements at first, heads off into the seats to make connections. When he returns he mock apologises if he's knocked someone's phone out of their hand if they were sticking it in his face as he moved past. Better With You is the last of the seven new songs in the main part of the set and once again Chloe and the choir shine and there's a wonderfully tender moment as Tim and Chloe sing together just before the song soars at the breakdown.

Sit Down is started low and slow, tricking some of those who just want hits around us into thinking it's another new song, but as the unmistakeable opening line kicks in, the audience sing as one, threatening to drown out the band's stripped back version. It still possesses an incredible power of communion in whichever way they choose to play it, something it only retains because they refuse to play it just like the single version at the end of the set as many bands would until the day they died. It does however generate the evening's one audience-led singalong still.  

We're Going To Miss You, resurrected for the orchestra tours in a way that captures the essence of the song in a way they'd never previously managed on stage, is lifted by the choir and now makes perfect sense live.  Time is of the essence with a 10.30 so they go straight to Sometimes to complete the main set, accompanied by simple but really appropriate images of rain and storms on the screens as the song builds to its climax. Surprisingly, or maybe not given some of those around us, it doesn't get picked up and sung back to them, but they take their first bows and leave.

The encore is as defiant as the set. Way Over Your Head is simply stunning, one of the album highlights transformed into a touching torchlight song that captures the despair of the first half of the song and then explodes into positivity as the second half lifts the song's subject out of the hole they found themselves in to the accompaniment of multi-coloured butterflies flying around the screens. Beautiful Beaches, a hit single born in the wrong time but one which the band clearly love, ends with Debbie and Dave once again duelling drums whilst the band turn and watch them. They send the crowd out into the night with Laid, their only predictable move of the night, played straight fast and furious.

James played Is This Love, Hey, Mobile God, Life’s A Fucking Miracle, Ring The Bells, Getting Away With It (All Messed Up), Johnny Yen, Shadow Of A Giant, Jam J, Stay, Born Of Frustration, Better With You, Sit Down, We’re Going To Miss You, Sometimes, Way Over Your Head, Beautiful Beaches and Laid.

James tour at Newcastle Utilita Arena (June 5), Glasgow OVO Hydro (7), Leeds First Direct Arena (8), Cardiff Utilita Arena (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.


Follow Even The Stars on Twitter at @eventhestarsuk and like our Facebook page for all the latest updates

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