James Live in Liverpool
Echo Arena Liverpool, 14 November 2014.
Back in the late-80s I had returned from Australia and settled in to a new job and home with my family. For a reason I cannot now remember my love of music returned in the early 90s and I set out to acquire the best hi-fi equipment I could afford. My music collection had remained static for many years and so I started to find more modern music to buy. Fortunately one of the major hi-fi mags chose that time to publish a list of what the writers felt were the 50 best sonic-quality CD releases around at the time. It was an eclectic list of albums and an ideal collection re-start point for me. Within a couple of months I had secured all 50 CDs and in the process had been introduced to artists I had never heard of before from a diversity of musical genres.
Amongst the list was the album by James called LAID. As well as sounding great it contained some of the best pop-rock songs I had heard for many years. In short, I played the album to death - one by a band I had never seen nor heard before. It wasn’t until the late 90s that I eventually got to see Tim Booth perform (I believe it was a solo gig backed by a band which may not have been the James band members). It was the Move Festival at Old Trafford in Manchester. A few weeks ago I received notification that James would be performing in Liverpool supported by another band who I had not seen nor heard for many years. The last time I saw Starsailor was in Dublin during the late 90s and with a new album in the melting pot following the band reunion I was keen to see them again.
Ben Byrne - drums
The 11,000 capacity Liverpool Echo Arena seeemd a little empty as Starsailor climbed onto the massive stage. Clearly this was a gig that James devotees would dominate, however, as James Walsh opened proceedings with the first of eight old favourites, Starsailor fans in the standing area soon made their presence felt. Walsh started rather nervously with ‘Poor Misguided Fool’ but with the support of fans and quality instrumental support he grew in confidence and by ‘Alcoholic’ was in full flight. The band’s top two albums made up the setlist much to the delight of fans who greeted each song with a cheer. Walsh always had an excellent band leadman voice and on the night played his guitar with both relish and skill. I think he only talked to the audience once during the 35-minute set but his singing spoke volumes…This was a tight set filled with fan favourites - mission accomplished!
Poor Misguided Fool�
Tim Booth - vocals
The lights dimmed and audience cheered signalling the start of James’s set. But then music began without the band and Booth actually on the stage. Shouts went up and a very bright and large beam of white light travelled to the balcony at the rear of the arena where members of the band led by Andy Diagram and Mr Booth. It was unexpected and delightful. As the opening song, ‘Lose Control’, rang out band members travelled around the perimeter balcony pausing occasionally for fans. Eventually Booth ended up at the pit towering above and right next to devoted fans who stretched out hands to touch their hero with mobile phone cameras worked overtime.
What a start! Once on stage it didn’t take long for the new album to surface with one of the most epic tracks in ‘Walk Like You’. Booth snaked sexilly around the stage eventually ending up dancing and singing next to Saul Davies rampant on violin. Booth is such a classy veteran who has that uncanny and rare ability to grab his audience with his performance rather than continual banter. In fact I only heard him give thanks to Liverpool early in the piece.
While the setlist included songs from no less than nine (yes 9!) albums the band’s latest (Le Petite Mort) contributed seven and listening to them here I can understand why. They are crowd pleasers, every one of them. Take for example ‘Curse Curse’ - probably one of the best dance tracks released in 2014. It’s a rhythmic humdinger with keyboard raising its voice above all other instruments.
‘Laid’ eventually appeared a few songs later and the crowd went crazy but then listened in respectful silence for another brand new song, ‘All I’m Saying’. Throughout the show the tempo and mood of songs was incredibly diverse and a credit to the players who soundly met each musical challenge. But as good as they were it was Mr Booth who shone the brightest with song-writing and performance that eclipsed just about everything I witnessed this year. Booth’s voice may not be the best technically (how many band singers are?) but he communicates with such expression, such passion one is transported and totally convinced.
Sadly not all songs could be performed because the curfew bug hit but not before one of the greatest contemporary pop-rock anthems was played and sung by everybody. ‘Sometimes’ proves that pop can be intelligent, meaningful and totally accessible - all at the same time. A memorable show by any standard.
I Know What I’m Here For
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