Gig review: James at First Direct Arena, Leeds

Tim Booth of James at the First Direct Arena. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

Tim Booth of James at the First Direct Arena. Picture: Anthony Longstaff

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James have been a band that have long divided critics. I wouldn’t say this is split down the middle but there is a bigger section of lovers than haters.

They seem to have been around for an eternity, hitting their highs in ’91/’92. They’ve had a mixture of success, more deserved for certain pieces of work such as albums Hey Ma and Seven.

Frontman Tim Booth departed in 2001 – to make a solo album and act – but their subsequent reunion in 2007 brought a more complimentary togetherness for the band. Whether it’s because they now hit an older audience or because their songwriting is more mature I don’t know, but the last seven years have seemed to be very successful.

Tonight at First Direct Arena in Leeds it’s the last date on a tour that has seen them appear at some very large venues across Europe and the UK.

Starsailor are support for tonight but there doesn’t seem enough atmosphere in the venue. The First Direct Arena is very grand and perhaps just too large for both acts.

I’ve seen James a few times, in various sized venues and with this band you take every gig at face value as there’s always an element of surprise.

They undoubtedly have their hardcore fanbase – and this seems apparent at every gig I’ve been to – yet to me they’re one of those take-it-or-leave-it bands. I enjoy the classics but can happily wander off to the bar during songs to which I’m unacclimatised.

The best thing about James for me is the connectivity that Tim Booth has with the crowd. His consistent interaction keeps the audience energised and baying for more.

His shamanic movements throughout the set even make me feel a little tired and slightly embarrassed, however this leads to some pretty awesome crowdsurfing from Booth.

The set is consistent and encompasses new and old material, however... within the classics that they play, such as Come Home and Laid, there is no She’s a Star and there is no Sit Down!

This is the single biggest moan I heard from many people exiting the arena. Why didn’t they play their biggest hit? Well, because James are a band that are incomparable and like to challenge their audience.

Is this a good thing? Only you, the fan can answer that.

Gig date: November 23

European Unison composer Ruth Spencer Jolly

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