James still on top of the world

Live review: James at Newcastle City Hall

Wednesday, 18th May 2016, 6:13 pm
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2016, 7:16 pm
James frontman Tim Booth at a previous show.

They’ve just notched up their biggest hit for 17 years, their 12th full-length album, Girl at the End of the World, having matched the No 2 placing achieved by its 1999 predecessor Millionaires, and ticket sales for their current tour to promote it are reportedly their healthiest for decades.

Girl at the End of the World is still in the top 100, at No 84, and the band are obviously justifiably proud of it, having played no fewer than three-quarters of its 12 tracks at their Newcastle City Hall show last night, May 17, even having three stabs at one of them, Attention.

A synthesiser mishap derailed their first attempt at Attention a couple of minutes into it, and frontman Tim Booth missed his cue second time round, but the 56-year-old promised that perseverance would pay off, and he was right as their final effort was spot on, just like the rest of their two-hour-plus set.

The other tracks from the new album given an airing were Catapult, Dear John, the title tune, Move Down South, Nothing But Love, Surfer’s Song and To My Surprise, along with, this being the only low point of the evening, the unspeakable bit of stuff and nonsense that is Alvin, a piece of whimsy inspired by the late Alvin Stardust and sung in dubious French.

Their second last album, 2014’s La Petite Mort, was also given a deservedly good showing, with four of its 10 or 11 tracks, depending how you count them, putting in an appearance, Interrogation being the pick of the bunch.

A few golden oldies were trotted out, naturally enough, by the eight-piece act to keep long-time fans among the near-capacity audience happy, including 1988’s What For and the year after’s Come Home, along with three tracks from 1993’s Laid.

Sometimes, featuring the now-customary singalong in the middle, was the best of the Laid tunes played on the night, but Tomorrow, featured on its 1994 companion album Wah Wah and also on its 1997 follow-up, Whiplash, was every bit as well received.

Another Whiplash track, She’s a Star, formed half of a two-song acoustic segment in the middle of the set, along with 1999’s Just Like Fred Astaire, and a third, a euphoric blast through Waltzing Along, was their final encore of the night.

Apparently undaunted by a bit of a roughing-up he suffered at the hands of drunken fans during an off-stage walkabout at a show in Wales last Thursday, Booth ventured out not once but twice into the audience, getting away with it this time round and not getting all messed up, happily enough.

James were, as ever, a magnificent proposition live, and fans planning to go along to the remaining shows on their current tour – at Glasgow’s Hydro tomorrow night, May 19; at Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena the night after, May 20; and Nottingham Royal Concert Hall on Saturday, May 21 – would be well advised to get themselves along early to catch their support act, fellow Manchester band the Slow Readers’ Club, as they were splendid too, giving every impression of being destined for bigger things themselves in years to come.

Highlights of their set of just over half an hour’s duration included Know The Day Will Come and I Saw a Ghost.

James can also be seen at festivals in Devon and London in August and September. For details, go to wearejames.com