Setlist: Say Something, Sometimes, Laid, Senorita, English Beefcake, Tomorrow, Vervaceous, I Defeat, Come Home, Space, God Only Knows, Born of Frustration, Getting Away With It (All Messed Up), Ring The Bells, Top Of The World, Waltzing Along, Sound, Sit Down.
Dave Simpson (The Guardian)
Tim Booth’s recent decision to walk away from fronting James after 19 years should be viewed as a rare example of a rock star behaving with true dignity. Despite their 1998 Best of album selling 1m copies, the band’s last two studio albums – 1999’s Millionaires (arguably the best of their career) and this year’s Pleased To Meet You – fared inexplicably badly. When Mercury Records dropped them after a 10 year relationship, the writing was on the wall, but the number of “classic” groups that are lingering on or reuniting still throws Booth’s decision to quit into stark perspective.
Fans of many different ages are crammed into this warm-up for the final arena shows. James boast one of rock’s most loyal fan bases, and could still have made a very comfortable living as a touring band. As we line up to hear the songs for one last time, the gig has a surreal atmosphere: part funeral, part wake.
But James were never straightforward and the set list reflects their strange trajectory from oddball New Order support act to 1990s stadium giants. Curiously though, there are no songs from their early Factory Records period. Come Home blasts us back to 1990s Madchester; Say Something and Sometimes to the Eno-produced days of chart ubiquity. These songs tug at the heartstrings, and make James success seem all the more remarkable – this is a band that took mental illness on to Top of the Pops.
There was always something of the underdog about James though. They battled industy shenanigans, line-up upheavals, physical problems and personal turmoil, their determination reflected in the hopeful song Tomorrow. The crowd sing along, eyes closed. For years, James provided a precious rock to cling to for the multitudes who felt similarly distressed and alienated by the world.
Booth used to resent the way the press depicted him as a vegan and meditating Buddhist, but now, in vest and skull cap, he looks very much the part, which must afford him some wry amusement. He is subdued for the first half, but grows exuberant as the power of the songs carries him away. James close with the colossus Sit Down and then the seven-piece band walk to the front of the stage and wave goodbye, History will remember them kindly, a uniquely spirited rock band that never knew disgrace.
I’m just so glad that it wasn’t my last james experience. The night was beset by technical problems which didn’t help but if ever there was a band going through the motions then it’s this band. Don’t get me wrong, there were magical moments. Ring The Bells and Sound set the pulse racing just like the olden days. Top Of The World was just gorgeous and Sit Down swaggered and throbbed like the anthem that it is.
I’m going to get hammered for what I’m going to say next but I’ll say it anyway. I was there in 1990 at the G-Mex, there in 1992 at Alton Towers and there for those wonderful ‘Best Of’ shows in 1998 amongst mnay others. James last night weren’t fit to be mentioned in the same breath. I know that people can’t help when they got into the band and I hope everyone enjoys the shows but it’s not the same. Only Tim seemed to really care about putting on a show and his voice is still fantastic.
The james of 2001 still piss all over most of their contemporaries, just not from the height that they once did. The technical problems didn’t help and I’ve never seen a sound engineer as pissed off as the guy last night. It ruined the first 5 songs. The other major disappointment of the evening was that the band walked on 10 minutes late and the 2 songs dropped were What For and Protect Me.
I’m going to 3 of the last 5 shows and my only hope is that at least one of them contains some of the old magic. I shan’t be holding my breath.
Gaz Shann (We Are Leeds)
Arriving slightly late Turin Brakes (ed note – it was a band called Haven) had already started their set. Plenty of fans were watching but it was obvious most were here for only one thing.
The atmosphere built up quickly as the lights dropped and out came James for maybe their last ever appearance in Leeds.
The sound was noticeably better than last time and Say Something sounded very clean although Tim hardly stretched the vocal towards the end which is usually the highlight of the song for me as he sings over the “Say something”. Sometimes had it’s usual power and I for one was pleased they chose to play it tonight. Then Laid kicked in and was superb as usual but was spoilt slightly by some idiot turning the main lights to the venue on. Senorita has never been as good since the 5 night stand concert but Beefcake quickly made up for it and has to one of the best James songs of the last 5 years.
A few surprises over the next collection of songs such as God Only Knows and I defeat (which Tim said they had never played before – but I swear I’ve seen it live before). These both sounded great with a lighthearted moment where Tim introduced Kulas as a late replacement for Sinead O’Conner.
A powerful ending to the main set showed to everyone just how much the band will be missed, BOF, Ring the Bells and getting away with it all messed up, just blew the crowd away and left the crowd begging and shouting for more.
Predictably they returned to a heroes ovation. Top of the World and Sound two prime example of why James are the best live act around followed by another exit before a rousing rendition of Sit Down after they had tricked everyone by playing the opening sequence to How was it for you. The place erupted on completion and Tim said his final farewells to Leeds.
A great set, missing ‘Shes a Star’ which was mentioned by many of the way to the exits (still they can’t play everything) and I think the set had something for everyone, The band obviously enjoyed it and they are leaving a huge gap in the music industry as they wind down the band. Many people we talked to tonight didn’t even realise Tim was leaving and many hadn’t bought the Pleased to Meet You album but had Millionaires. It begs the question of whether the band would be in this position if the Mercury had handled them better.
But on a positive note a great night, superb atmosphere and an excellent performance.
Roll on the rest of the tour…..