The last time I saw James play live, at Nottingham's Royal Concert Hall, they hadn't even released an album. They'd probably, as folklore goes, sold more T-Shirts than records and if asked would probably not have expected to still be playing together some 34 years later. Way back in 1985, James were a relatively new band riding the indie wave that was being driven to a large extent by the band who they were supporting on tour that year, fellow Mancunians The Smiths. Whilst The Smiths broke up (with little chance of ever reforming) a couple of years later, James continued on and, despite a five year hiatus at the start of the millennium, have continued to play live and make new music.
Last year saw the release of James' fifteenth album 'Living In Extraordinary Times', and it is the tour of the same name that brought them from Manchester to Margate to play at The Winter Gardens. In the century old venue in front of two thousand fans, James put on quite a show; well, two shows actually.
Ahead of the main performance, the support slot for the night was given to: James! The full band came out on stage to rapturous applause and announced that they would be performing an acoustic set; that they would "keep your attention and steal your voices for the evening" as well as jokingly wondering what the hell they had done. It started aptly enough with 'Hello', was given something fresh with "a track that didn't make the album" in 'Broken By The Hurt', and built beautifully through a brilliant piano solo on 'Quicken The Dead' from the band's 2014 album 'Le Petite Mort'. As it was an acoustic set, there was less band noise filling the venue than may have been anticipated, so the rather noisy people at bar got an earful at one point. "We're going down about as well as a bad support band", said lead singer Tim Booth. A lively rendition of 'Maria', a song they "hadn't played for about twenty years", saw Booth take his first tentative stride out onto the extended stage 'catwalk' before the more emotionally charged 'All I'm Saying'. A stirring 'I Wanna Go Home' rounded off the first half hour with a rousing send off. "Thank you to James for giving us this opportunity, we've been Patrick, see you in half an hour", Booth and Andy Diagram quipped as James left the stage for the first time in the evening.
Continue reading: James - Margate Winter Gardens 06.03.2019 Live Review
When politicians try to get some reflected glory off pop anthems, it never ends well.
After Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler had to write a second cease-and-desist letter to Donald Trump asking him to stop playing their songs during his rallies this week – having already called him out for doing the same with ‘Dream On’ three years ago – we thought we’d compile some other famous moments when politicians got scolded by musicians for using their songs without permission.
Almost inevitably, such clashes come up when songs are used by right-wing or conservative parties and candidates. Musicians are a fairly liberal bunch, understandably, and they don’t want their messages and sentiments getting confused with those counter to their own beliefs and ideologies.
So, here’s seven other famous moments when politicians tried to get some credibility off pop stars.
Continue reading: 7 Times Politicians Tried To Use Pop Songs Without Permission
Nottingham's Splendour Festival has a popular reputation in the city as a decent family day out - weather permitting - and this year it certainly lived up to its billing. After attracting the likes of local lad Jake Bugg (who has probably graced every single venue in the city with that shrill voice of his), Happy Mondays (brilliant) and The Boomtown Rats (not so brilliant, but entertaining) last year, the one-day festival has certainly grown in appeal. This year the main attractions are nineties chart stalwarts James and the legendary Specials.
Hidden behind the pop fare was certainly some very interesting music, mainly in the courtyard near the Comedy stage away from the funfair, hotdogs, candy floss and ice creams. If the Confetti stage - named after Nottingham's media college - featured generic indie led by the likes of The Twang, the acoustic stage had a few real treats like terrific singer-songwriter Daudi Matsiko (who would appeal to both soul and alternative fans equally) and Eyre Lew, with their well layered ambient guitar soundscapes.
The sun and the crowd really came alive for James, who admitted that they had only just started playing their most popular tune 'Sit Down' again after a long period. I can understand why; it's nowhere near the best song of a great pop band who left Factory Records early in their career because they were finding their independence getting lost, so compromising with the masses doesn't tend to be a route they go down. On this occasion though, I'm glad they did. A mass sing-a-long ensues for 'Sit Down', enabling the real five-star material to come out.
Continue reading: Splendour Festival - Nottingham - July 2015 Live Review
It's perhaps fitting that my prevailing memory of this year's Isle of Wight Festival will be guitars. This was after all the 45th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's legendary performance on the Island, something that was being widely celebrated by festival organiser John Giddings and his team across the site. Fender, for example, brought some specially designed guitars to the party for artists including You Me At 6 to play, and there was also a world record attempt for the most number of people in one place to be wearing a mask, the face in question was naturally Hendrix himself. Despite that backdrop, it was some of the guitarists who played across the weekend that demonstrated the power of the instrument and reinforced that guitar based rock isn't on its last legs as some have speculated over the past few years.
The festival got into full swing with a Stones-esque swagger on Friday afternoon when The Struts took to the Main Stage. Their enthusiasm signalled a continuation of their set from the previous year's festival, indeed they are an ideal opening act when you want to energise a crowd. Their appearance at Download the following day, will no doubt have had a similar effect. There seemed to be a Rolling Stones theme to many of the acts getting the festival underway. Over in the Big Top The Ruen Brothers covered 'Miss You' during their rousing set that was well received.
The first moment that sent a shiver down my spine this year was the Counting Crows though. The guitar line to 'Round Here' sent a wave of excitement across the main arena. It was a strong opening statement in a nine song set that featured the likes of 'Mr Jones', 'Miami', and 'Rain King' into which singer Adam Duritz dropped some Elbow lyrics as a nod of the hat to Guy Garvey. If Counting Crows' guitars weren't haunting enough, it was actually The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach whose riffs were the most powerful and elemental of the day. The dirty Blues grit of Auerbach's playing was like a roll of thunder that saw the heavens open to drench the crowd in torrential rain. While much of the set was dedicated to material culled from 'El Camino' and 'Brothers', rather than recent record 'Turn Blue', the band's graduation to a headlining slot was well deserved and warranted. The final song of the set 'Little Black Submarines', which builds from a delicate solo performance to a dramatic climax, utilised every trick in the book for The Black Keys' expanded touring band. If Patrick Carney's drums and Auerbach's guitars are the perfect union on record, it seems their live shows rightly now have the power to command top billing with the inclusion of bassist Richard Swift and keyboardist John Clement Wood.
Continue reading: Isle Of Wight Festival - 2015 Live Review
James first came to my attention with their rather wonderful JimOne EP. I then went on to eagerly follow their releases up to Goldmother (which in my opinion peaked with Strip Mine). I saw them play a celebratory show at the Blackpool Empress Ballroom the year after the Roses played there and I saw them steal the show at Glastonbury after being a last minute replacement for Morrissey, even covering 'We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful' better than the great man himself. Shortly after that their music took a downwards trajectory and they chose a path more in line with the stadium rock of Simple Minds than the otherworldly, eccentric James I knew and loved. They split in 2001 and I heard they got back together a few years ago, but I hadn't heard anything up to this point, so it was with great interest I approached this album.
The Morning After is a mini album and serves as a Part 2 for another previous mini album The Night before which was released earlier on in the year. Word has it that this album was an opportunity for James to use the slower songs they often leave off other albums. I wish someone had talked them out of this as on initial listens it does indeed appear they are scraping the bottom of the songwriting barrel.
Continue reading: James, The Morning After Album Review
For a band whose lengthy career consists of 10 studio albums, twenty UK top 40 singles and 12 million albums sold worldwide, James have never really ignited the imagination like they perhaps could have done, choosing instead to straddle the line between pure pop brilliance and dull mediocrity. Unfortunately, The Night Before continues this trend, with seven brand new songs which somehow overall just don't hit the mark.
Continue reading: James, The Night Before Album Review