Live review: James at Newcastle City Hall

Tim Booth performing with James at Newcastle City Hall on Sunday, March 17, 2019. Photo by Carl Chambers
Tim Booth performing with James at Newcastle City Hall on Sunday, March 17, 2019. Photo by Carl Chambers

Sit Down being altenative rock act James’s biggest hit not once but twice over, it was a cause for disgruntlement among some fans when they got a bit sniffy about playing it live a few years ago, preferring to focus on newer material.

Not only is it now a staple of their live sets once more, albeit in slowed-down acoustic form, but there is more sitting down going on at their shows than ever before these days, however.

Tim Booth proving he won't stand for sitting down. Photo by Carl Chambers

Tim Booth proving he won't stand for sitting down. Photo by Carl Chambers

Newcastle City Hall being an all-seated venue, its capacity audience of 2,100-plus remained in their seats for the duration of a six-song opening acoustic set by the Manchester band and the start of the 16-track main set that followed, and, due to an ankle injury, even usually-restless frontman Tim Booth, after hobbling on stage with the aid of a crutch, had to heed the words of their 1991 and 1998 hit and sit down for a fair chunk of the evening.

Being confined to a chair for several songs didn’t stop the West Yorkshire-born 59-year-old throwing in a few of his trademark eccentric dance manoeuvres either, though those of them executed while still seated, consisting of swaying from side to side and spinning around, did bear an unfortunate passing resemblance to an impression of the Doctor Who baddie Davros.

Sit Down wasn’t the only crowd-pleaser given an airing, eight of the tunes they played being eligible for filing under the title of greatest hits – the others being Just Like Fred Astaire, Ring the Bells, Getting Away With It (All Messed Up), Johnny Yen, Tomorrow, Come Home and Sound – and nothing obscure, arcane or unlikely being dredged from their archives to test the patience of non-hardcore fans. The closest the band, together from 1982 to 2001 and since 2007, got to throwing in the odd curveball was playing Pressure’s On from their opinion-dividing sixth album, Wah Wah, and the two non-album tracks from last year’s Better Than That EP, one of them, Broken By the Hurt being among the highlights of a night to remember.

That concentration on familiar material led to far more slickness than James fans have grown accustomed to, only two false starts all evening undermining the uncharacteristic air of professionalism being exuded during what was a fantastic show from start to, two-and-a-half hours later, finish.

Even the seven new songs they played now feel like old favourites – the Brexit-defying Many Faces in particular – due to their latest album, Living in Extraordinary Times, a No 6 hit, having been out since last August and given an airing live during a preview tour last May, pre-Christmas arena outing and summer festival season.

Their tour moves on to Edinburgh tonight, Carlisle on Wednesday and Birmingham on Thursday before wrapping up in Hull on Friday, and they’ll be back in the north east in August for Hardwick Live near Sedgewick in County Durham. For details, go to wearejames.com