Guildford Festival – 4th August 2001

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Setlist: Say Something, Sometimes, Laid, English Beefcake, Senorita, Johnny Yen, Waltzing Along, Stutter, Out To Get You, Destiny Calling, She’s A Star, Falling Down, Born of Frustration, Getting Away With It (All Messed Up), Sit Down, Ring the Bells.



Tonight’s headliners James survived Britpop and now find themselves arguably more popular then they’ve ever been. And despite declaring on this very website that they’re not “a safe bet” that’s not the impression their audience gives off.

Aside from Tim Booth’s manic, man-battling-internal-demons dancing, this is pop, albeit cloaked in stories of sexual politics and paranoia. It’s pretty fine pop, too, with the opening ‘Say Something’ firing the audience into a sea of hands as rain begins to cascade from the sky.

Tracks from new album ‘Pleased To Meet You’ are slotted in alongside the hits in a festival-friendly set that ebbs and flows – from the slow whirl of new song ‘Senorita’ to the euphoric high of ‘She’s A Star’.

‘Born Of Frustration’ sees Booth missing his cue but he soon makes up for it by spinning around like a dervish, hand cupped to his face as he screams out the track’s signature “Woo-woo-woo-woo”.

They even deign to play ‘Sit Down’, although the verses are delivered in a subdued fashion which only reinforces the anthemic nature of the chorus. As the crowd sing and jump, the band stare out with barely concealed smiles of pride.

As they take their bows at the end, the band look mightily pleased with life. “We didn’t deserve this,” Booth admonishes the crowd, perhaps too mindful of a few glitches. He’s being unfair as, a few drawn-out jams aside, they plundered their back catalogue for maximum crowd pleasers.

James may not have the credibility of their contemporaries, but when it comes to pure pop with a sting in the lyrics, few do it better. And that’s why they’re so loved.

Guildford Festival Official Site

James entered the stage in a haze of red–lighting that certainly added an element of atmosphere to the start of the proceedings which were to follow.

James are very adept at producing a complicated and engaging sound, and they certainly know how to belt out a good tune or two. We were taken on a vocal roller coaster, as Booth’s voice spanned from soul-inspiring falsetto to a gutsy provocative tone. We were treated to favourites like “Sit Down” and to some exciting new material (one particularly memorable song about “sexual addiction”).

I’ll admit I set out only knowing and liking about two James songs, but now I’m irretrievably obsessive. This is doubtless indicative of the genius of the band, that they can take a mild interest and make the audience love them.

As far as the visual aspect of the performance goes, Booth can certainly move. With pelvic movements other performers can but dream about, he moved and shaked (with a look of effortless satisfaction on his face) to the amazement of all.

To gauge the reaction to James, one need only look to the mosh pit. Beginning small at the start, the jumping crowd grew till it met with the very extremities of the stage.

James have proved themselves capable of covering almost every kind of human emotion. Joy to melancholy, sexuality to exploration of soul, all seem to be dealt with employing versatility and brilliance.

James left the audience dying for more, and it was only noise-control that stopped them from delivering it. An audience left soaked with rain, satisfied, and totally euphoric.

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From the moment they stepped onto the stage on Saturday night, James held the Guildford Live audience in the palms of their hands.

Expectations of favourite songs ran through the crowd, and when James launched into ‘Say Something’ there was a reactionary cheer.

Three songs in, and at the words, “This is a song about being hit by lightening”, the crowd erupted again to sing along with ‘Sometimes’, jumping fiercely and singing their hearts out despite the rain that was beginning to pour down on them.

Running through the hits that have secured James a place as arguably one of the greatest indie bands of all time, including ‘Laid’, ‘Born of Frustration’, and the instant crowd pleaser ‘Sit Down’, lead singer Tim Booth added his unique dance style to the set. Like a man possessed, he captivated the crowd, flinging his arms about passionately, jumping across the stage, the centre of attention.

Proving that they are still producing some great new material, the band blasted out songs from their new album, ‘Pleased to Meet You’, including the new single ‘Getting away with it (All messed up)’.

But it was the old favourites that made the night such a success. And as the rain gave way to a cool breeze, James rounded off a perfect performance with ‘Ring the Bells’, the final chorus building up to an amazing crescendo of whooping and cheering from the crowd.

Our only complaint was that James didn’t have time for an encore – timing restrictions meant that the band had to be offstage by 11pm.

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