Blackpool Empress Ballroom – 3rd August 1990

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Hang On, It’s That One I Know (aka Tonight), Hymn From A Village, Government Walls, Black Hole, Scarecrow, Next Lover, How Much Suffering, Bring A Gun, Crescendo, Stripmining, Don’t Wait That Long, Johnny Yen, How Was It For You?, Come Home, Stutter*, Sit Down^.
*Cut ^Missing from this recording.

John Robb, Sounds
Scene of last year’s triumphant Roses ascendancy, a momentous gig where Mancs went big time, this year’s Empress bash saw the James convention, a mass assembly of cunning merchandise as the elder statesmen of all things Manchester fill out a prestigious two night bash in this most plush of venues.

James knew this was the big one, making another leap up in the sheer entertainment stakes from their Futurama appearance last year where they made their putsch for the 90s with a loosened up pop party. The Empress saw a fully blown show with a surging wall of precisely mixed sound that underlined all the new found subtleties in The Tim Booth Salvation Army Band.

The massed 4,000 Jimmies were armed with the career boosting “JA” shirts, a thundering regime that sent the temps to an unhealthy high. Fainting fans were doused with water as the band bashed out the scorching pop gifts of “Sit Down” and “Come Home”.

Perhaps the fabbest of current moments, “Home”, with Larry Gott’s blistering twisting guitar hook, lifts the song to another level as the goonish English teacher lookalike Booth dances his charismatic flailing frame and pleads his vocals in that half-camp half-fallen-angel-choirboy manner.

He’s countered onstage by the equally energy-struck Saul, who switches from Violinski overdrive with the Paganini plank (eat your heart out Nigel Kennedy, you horrible little man) to a Telecaster rattle in a cross-stage zig-zag.

Saul looks quite menacing compared to Tim’s good vibe. In fact, Booth almost seems to be leading the mass gang thru some sort of sonic nature ramble, with that air of disbelief and the quizzical smile stretched across his raked face.

The current stretched James line-up has blasted the tackle into 3D, almost spaghetti western compatible soundscapes, with trumpet a lonesome wail awaiting the dependable drum rumble to kick the rest of the band into gear. The four new songs take full advantage of the increasing sense of dynamics with a smouldering brooding power.

You can spazz dance, let yer mind soar up and down or just get off on the uplifting quality of even their darkest tracks. James 1990 are a burning cerebral rush of energy. Nights like this are what pop celebration is all about.

Gary Crossing, Melody Maker
Cockles in one hand, candy floss in the other, sporting a dandily titled “Kiss Me Quick” titfer, you promenade this king of corny coastlines in search of entertainment.

It’s a tough choice. All the greats are treading Blackpool’s boards this summer. Shakin’ Stevens, Little & Large, Freddie Starr ….. and James.

Wisely choosing the latter, you stroll into a field of those distinctive daisy t-shirts which cling moistly to perspiring bodies in the intense heat beneath the chandeliers and intricate masonry of the palatial venue.

Atmosphere! If only you could bottle it. The best part of a decade later, James’ ship has finally come in. Tim Booth momentarily stands agog before the wondrous welcome, but is soon flailing with fervour as the set thrums into action, transforming the dancefloor into a beer-sodden parquet trampolene.

The Smiths meet the Bunnymen and wash over The Waterboys on this unforgettable evening, with the likes of oldie-but-goodie “Hymn From A Village”, the meandering message of “Government Walls” and the superb pop of “Come Home” and “How Was It For You?”

A caring-sharing combo who don’t have dancing fans bounced from their stage, their rapport with their audience is such that during “Sit Down”, 8,000 fans do just that – school assemblee stylee.

Aboard the last tram home, it suddenly dawns: blistering barnacles, not even the great Shaky could inspire such a following.

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