In March, Music editor Harry Hetherington sat down with Northampton's Slowthai to discuss the Joker, genius.com, and Britain's imperial hangoverWritten by Harry Hetherington on 24th May 2019
Live Review: James
James' latest material blends seamlessly with decade-spanning hits on the live stage, Music writer Seb Rolley reviews
Following the release of their critically acclaimed album Living in Extraordinary Times, James brought their tour of the record to O2 Academy, attracting a large and diverse crowd to see their equally acclaimed live show.
Instead of a support act, James chose to open the night with an acoustic set. Whilst the general attitude towards this may have been a little sceptical, the band’s dedication to giving this set a real sense of purpose dispelled any initial scepticism. Instead of falling into the trap of laziness that acoustic sets too often do, James chose to instead create complete full band arrangements. In particular, the band's arrangement of ‘All I’m Saying’ was able to highlight the song’s theme of loss extremely powerfully.
“James were able to turn this opening set into something truly great, using the limitations of an acoustic set to elevate the songs
After a quick setup change, their main set opened with an absolutely huge performance of ‘Heads’. Throughout the song, every member of the band radiated an intense energy, something which the crowd quickly matched as the song built into a stunning climax of blaring horns and feverish percussion. This percussion, which made the song on record so effective and exciting, was only enhanced here, quickly proving wrong anyone with any doubts as to the strength of their new material.
This opener was representative of the direction the set would take, leaning heavily on material from Living in Extraordinary Times, something Tim pointed out should hardly be surprising with it being the 'Living in Extraordinary Times Tour'. Almost the entirety of the record was played throughout the set, ranging from the elation of ‘Leviathan’ to the contemplative ‘How Hard the Day’. Every one of these songs felt absolutely essential, bringing a new and crucial energy into the James catalogue.
“When the band dropped away, however, this took on its own life in the crowd, as they made it their own and increased the energy and passion with which they sung
Surprisingly however, the greatest communal moment came after the band had finished playing. The final song of the set was recent standout track ‘Many Faces’. Throughout the song, Tim built the repeated refrain of ‘There’s only one human race, many faces, everybody belongs here’ into a mantra of love and community. When the band dropped away, however, this took on its own life in the crowd, as they made it their own and increased the energy and passion with which they sung it. This felt like a true culmination of the band’s vision for this song, and their message in general. To finish on such a powerful moment was incredibly powerful, providing hope in humanity I think we all need in these difficult, yet extraordinary, times.
What really stood out leaving the venue was that the best sounding songs they played were the ones off their latest release, something almost no-one from their era can make claim to. With this, James make an extremely strong claim to their enduring relevance. This was no set from a nostalgia band, this was a set from a band able to balance a strong back catalogue with exciting and relevant recent material. An uplifting, emotional and truly joyous gig which held up against live acts both new and old.
'Living in Extraordinary Times' is available now via BMG Rights Management. Tickets to see James perform live are available here.