Tuesday, 25 November 2014

James at Brixton Academy - 21/11/14

For the second time in a row I view the gods of James from the gods of the theatre, rather than within the sea of swaying souls. Last time out I was in the back row of the Royal Albert Hall, and despite having had some great times in back rows over the years, in this instance I’d rather be closer to the action than getting some.

The support is the likeable Starsailor, who return ashore after their five year expedition into the abyss. Their bags are packed and their sails are tacked and their course is marked by stars…

James enter via conventional means as Brixton Academy doesn’t lend itself to a sneaky emergence. Tim Booth is sporting a resplendent tartan suit signifying a man with a chequered past; he wore this in Liverpool last week. Apparently, much of the Scouse audience were also bedecked in suits (of the track variety). Liverpool is a magical place though; stuff goes missing all the time.

The warmth of ‘Sound’ radiates through an exuberant Brixton Academy and invigorates our other senses as Tim bellows through a megaphone. As he dances, his rasta hat swirls around like an East End gangster menacingly swinging a cue ball in a sock. The cue ball is soon exposed as he sheds another skin, stripping away all his protection.

Walk Like You’ chaperones us through the journey of life, avoiding the well-trodden footsteps of our parents. Man hands on misery to man. Tim goes out into the audience and gets his magic 8-ball rubbed for good luck. ‘The outlook is good’.

The ground rules are established pre-dive; asking the crowd to prop him up rather than jamming their phones in his face (for a pic rather than an interview I assume). Meanwhile Saul, Jim and Larry form a triumvirate and jam it out.

The enrapturing single ‘Couscous’ is organic and orgasmic, coming at you like a creamy load in your face. Tim breaks into dance with his scurvied legs threatening to give way beneath him, but the support is superb (in more ways than one).

B-side ‘All Good Boys’ has been resuscitated for this tour, and with new life breathed into it, is now a man. The Bad Boys in the crowd take the opportunity to take a breather to visit the little boy’s/men’s room. ‘All I’m Saying’ is an attempted follow-up but demands a library-like hush that a Friday night London crowd is unable to give and the performance is cancelled. No more words - all’s been said and done. Instead, we are asked for our sympathy for Johnny Yen, who has had so much over the years I am convinced he must be a Scouser.

This becomes the start of a nostalgic expedition through ‘Johnny Yen’, ‘Hymn From A Village’ and ‘What’s The World’. The latter holds a distinctive place in James Folklore, being the first song they ever wrote. Bizarrely enough, it was only recorded for their first EP (included on this compilation of first two EPs) as they wanted to protect their better songs from the recording studio at that time, and the band believed it to be one of their worst songs. The Smiths didn’t agree and covered it in the 80s. The fans don’t agree either and it is always well-received on the set list. I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I, I love it!

The ethereal ‘Vervaceous’ has seen a reawakening after 15 years drifting through the atmosphere. Due to come back down, due to come back down… The sound is so relaxed it feels like a sound check. The essence is so much fresher than the recorded version, especially with amazing ad-libbed guitar from Larry Axeman.

Vervaceous’ was originally recorded with Sinead O’Connor wisping at the end. She has other fish to fry these days though, what with her kids, Band Aid 30 contribution, and her Friday night job in the chippy.

Tim dismisses the sign ‘Stage Divers Will Be Ejected’ and goes for a dive, surf, swim and probably some heavy petting within the viscous crowd. He’s out in deep water; I hope he’s a good swimmer. He controls the current and ‘Gets Away With It’, manoeuvring himself around adeptly.

Moving On’ was the enduring video of the year, a song about the beautiful death of Tim’s mother, which he relives as a birth. When God closes a door, he opens a window. I do the same when I am having a dump. “Leave a little light on” he sings shrilly. The light in my case controls the extractor fan so everyone’s a winner.

Gone Baby Gone’ completes the set with its ominous bass line, thumping heartbeat and contagious chorus. Fans join the band on stage as they are invited up to mum/dad-dance before the Gonecore.

James return to belt out the relentless, sinister epic that is ‘Interrogation’. The intensity in this track is overwhelming. Is this James at their most dramatic? Of courts it is.

By the time ‘Born Of Frustration' is whooped out, everyone on the balcony is on their feet, much to the consternation of the security who yell “sit down” without any trace of irony. ‘Sit Down’ has been rested for this tour and we are ignoring security anyway so we Stand, Stand, Stand and inevitably finish with SingalongaSometimes.

1 comment:

  1. Seriously great. You should write more often!