James @ O2 Guildhall Southampton 14/03/19

In our disposable, playlist-dominated culture, bands like James are all the more important. Just how many bands have been able to put out album after album, selling out venues and obtaining such a loyal fanbase? It was an unusual show in that James play an acoustic set before their main electric performance – we talked to bassist Jim Glennie before the tour about the band supporting themselves. It allows for greater variety in the setlist; there are a number of songs from latest album Living In Extraordinary Times, as well as tracks spanning their back catalogue, appearing on the night.

Frontman Tim Booth might be in his late fifties, but he has more dynamism and gusto on stage than many artists half his age. His moves are impressive, and his crowd surfing admirable – he’s definitely not one to just be going through the motions. The acoustic set features songs as varied as ‘Coming Home (Pt. 2)’ from Living In Extraordinary Times and ‘All I’m Saying’ from 2014 album Le Petite Mort, to Laid’s ‘Lullaby’. Stripped back, James’ talent is laid clear for all to see. It’s powerful, with poignant songs filling the room.

The main electric set which follows sees James pick up from pretty much where they left off. ‘Hank’ kicks the set off, as it does the latest album. About half of the main set comes from Living In Extraordinary Times, but the biggest reception is undoubtedly for ‘Laid’. As one of the band’s signature songs, it sends the crowd into delirium. ‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’ is another that’s well received, as the sort of song that sounds best in front of a sold-out venue.

There’s a short encore, during which Booth invites members of the crowd to dance on the stage. This level of audience participation is heartening to see – the relationship between artist and fan as strong as ever. There will always be the punters who complain about not hearing ‘Sit Down’, but nevertheless it’s a great evening with one of the most consistent bands of the last few decades.

Words by Adam England

@garageflowrr

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