Review: James – Civic Hall, Wolverhampton – 7th December 2016

In the taxi, on the way to Wolverhampton, my husband informs me that it was 1993 when James last played the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton. I was 14. He was 23. Despite the 9-year age gap between us, this band’s music has been a constant. This band’s music has seen us through every up and every down. This band’s music has been our soundtrack to life and we have absolutely no doubt it always will be. Of course, there are so many other bands that play a part in our 18-year soundtrack, so many, but James feature heavily in it. And now, our 6-year-old daughter seems to love them just as much as we do.

Sadly, I just miss out on snapping the support band for the evening, The Slow Readers Club (★★★★) but I don’t miss their whole set. Their sound is big and epic considering there’s only four of them in the band. Their electro-indie sound reminds me of Echo & The Bunnymen, Joy Division and The Stone Roses and that isn’t a bad thing at all. I’ll definitely be checking out the band in more depth.

But the crowd are only here for one reason. James (★★★★★) saunter on stage, some band members sipping on cups of coffee. It’s a very relaxed affair until the starting riff of Waltzing Along rings out and the game changes altogether. The sound of the entire crowd singing along to this opening track is enough to raise goose-bumps. Then it’s on to, To My Surprise and Surfer’s Song from the current album (and the reason for this tour), Girl at the End of the World.

Ring the Bells euphoric and English Beefcake is just incredible. It’s a real treat to hear Five-O and as expected, Moving On brings me to tears. It’s such a sad yet uplifting piece of music and a song that will stay with me forever. Born of Frustration whips the crowd into a frenzy with it’s opening bars of “woo ooh woo hoo ooh’s” and prompts one hell of a sing-a-long.

Next up, the enigmatic Tim Booth introduces a song that hasn’t been played live for over twenty years, Been Burned. She’s a Star and Come Home are just amazing and again, the crowd sings every single word back to the band. The intensity doubles, if not triples, on Sit Down, which makes an uncommon but more than welcome appearance on tonight’s set list. Then it’s back to the new with Attention, which ends the set perfectly.

One thing really strikes a chord with me tonight – the new stuff sounds as good as the old stuff and vice versa. There’s no “age” to their music. It’s timeless. It’s all so seamless.

After a very short break, the band strike up Just Like Fred Astaire. This song holds such meaning for my husband and I as it instantly brings back happy memories of our wedding day. It was our “first dance”. The penultimate song of the encore is, Sometimes and it’s almost a spiritual experience, particularly when the audience take up where the band stop, “Sometimes when I look deep in your eyes I can see your soul”. Finally, the band leave us with Nothing But Love and it couldn’t be more apt because it’s exactly what we all feel as we give the band one hell of a standing ovation.

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