Margate Winter Gardens – 6th March 2019

VIP Soundcheck – Main show review below

In the Soundcheck before the show, where the band play a few songs, have a bit of banter with fans and answer questions, they played:

  • Heads
  • Many Faces
  • Picture of This Place

Unfortunately, Tim has hurt his back again – he thinks and hopes it may be related to his jetlag but warns that he may not be able to dance much. Jim and Saul joke with him about zimmer frames and stair lifts to get him about. He wants to lean on the mic stand for support but it keeps sliding down – says you can’t be a proper rock singer unless you have something to hang onto!

A question was asked about when they’d do a new live album – concensus seems to be that there’s not enough demand these days for a physical DVD release so anything they do will be online. But recent attempts to record gigs have been beset by technical issues, with simple things like people not pressing record!

Next question asked when there would be a new Best Of – a discussion ensued about whether that meant a new best of of newer stuff or just stuff that hadn’t been on other releases. Saul’s answer was – “just before we split up”!

Last question was – do they look forward or back? Jim said that in 2007 they got back together to make music for themselves and if anyone else liked it, that was great but it wasn’t the primary reason. They’re gratified and amazed they can still sell out large venues. Saul says that maybe they don’t look enough to the past though, but if they don’t continue to look forward, they’re fucked. They don’t want to be a heritage band, they want to be able to take risks – they’re not afraid of failure, but they’re equally not afraid of success either.

The good news though is that Saul says they’ve already written half of the next album!

Review of the main show and support follows… photos will be added to from main camera later, using the phone whilst at the venue

Main show and support

The setting of the internal splendour of the slightly old and peeling Margate Winter Gardens seemed a good parallel to draw with James – a band who have been going in various incarnations since the early 1980s, with members mostly in their mid to late 50s – but with a brilliance that belies their aging exterior. Saul Davies joked about them all being old during the VIP soundcheck and Tim Booth informed us all that he wouldn’t be launching into his trademark crazy dancing due to a bad back.

If the crowd’s spirits dropped a little at this news, they were soon to be lifted – and not just lifted but pushed through the roof of this seaside venue that has hosted such historic events as The Beatles, been bombed and rebuilt and where British soldiers rescued from Dunkirk were evacuated.

In a concert that unusually saw almost the entire audience in early for the support act, as James were taking on the mammoth task of being their own support band, Davies joked to the crowd that they were tired of seeing their support acts- who have included the likes of Radiohead, Nirvana and Coldplay and most recently fellow Mancunians Slow Readers Club – becoming highly successful and thought that increased success might rub off on them!

The six song acoustic set spanned much of their career with the 1992 Maria’s Party- a song about “a very sexy party” as Booth informs us, combining with the opener Hello from 1999s Millionaires album to the slow, haunting Broken By The Hurt from their latest album Living In Extraordinary Times.

Although billed as an acoustic set, only the upright piano and stripped down drum kit marked it as different to a normal show, along with the accordion that Mark Hunter – despite despising the instrument during their acoustic tour in 1993 with Neil Young – had been persuaded to take back up for Maria’s Party. It was more of a short set of songs fans rarely get to hear anymore and apart from a few chatters by the bar area that Booth and Davies admonished for their rudeness to the obvious delight of the crowd, the lesser known songs were very well received.

If any of the audience had booked tickets for the show expecting a “Greatest Hits” set, then they really don’t know this band – but they would be the only ones left disappointed tonight, as the main show, heavy on tracks from the new album, demonstrated the strength of the band’s output since their reformation in 2007.

Despite Booth’s sore back, he managed quite a bit of his snake hipped dancing, whilst trumpeter Andy Diagram stalked the stage adding the electro brass sound that ably marked James out from the crowd of Indie guitar bands. With his radio mic giving him the freedom to roam both the stage and the audience, he appears right in the middle of the crowd during Sound, whilst Saul Davies’ electric violin adds another aspect to the band that gives them a depth to their sound and keeps their fans telling anyone who will listen that James are the best live band on the circuit.

Opening their main set with Johnny Yen, Booth’s intro of, “Ladies and Gentlemen…” is met with a roar of approval, but in typical James style, and as the LIET tour name suggests, this is never going to be a nostalgia trip and is followed by What’s It All About and Picture Of This Place.
Girl At The End Of The World’s Interrogation follows the thundering Leviathan and returns to the new album with Extraordinary Times and the percussion heavy Heads, Chloe Alper and Dave Baynton-Power combining to get everyone dancing.
Another delve into the back catalogue comes up with Tomorrow, before the atmosphere is quietened again with the haunting Busted and How Hard The Day.

One of the main complaints on James tours and festivals is the Twitter moan of, “but they didn’t play Sit Down…” – so the band oblige in typical James style, by stripping their best known hit back to the absolute bare bones. With no drums, minimal guitar and bass and a piano, and with the tempo wound right down, the song is almost unrecognisable.

“From the sublime to the ridiculous” quips Tim, as they prepare to delve yet again into their earliest work with Stutter – but Saul needs the floor tom and it’s not ready.

Ever the improvisers, they do something unheard of – What do you want us to play? A cacophony of sound greets Tim. “Shut up!!” Tim decides he will blindly stick the mic into the front row and hope that it doesn’t find a geek who wants “that 1987 b-side about mosquitoes”, and take a blind request. Luckily for the band, but not for those of us who’d quite like Mosquito, the mic finds a young woman who wants Come Home and the band have the crowd erupting into wild dancing again.

The unplanned trio of classics continues with Born Of Frustration, with the band leaving the stage for a short break before returning with a 3 song encore of Many Faces, which they uncharacteristically stop the crowd singalong that is becoming a new trademark and launch into Jim Glennie’s instantly recognisable bassline of Sound. With Tim’s back preventing his forays into the crowd, although he does have a short walk through them rather than his usual crowd surf, it’s left to Andy to appear in their midst for the trumpet crescendo to this fan favourite, his progress through the crowd marked by camera phones glinting off the silver of the instrument.

Getting Away With It closes the first gig of this 12 date tour and provides the crowd with an anthem to leave the venue still singing. James shook this little seaside town to its core tonight.

Even The Stars gig review….

Isle of Thanet News gig review….

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