James – Live Review – First Direct Arena, Leeds

James Leeds First Direct Arena 2021

By Steve Crabtree, November 2021

There are certain bands that you get addicted to, in a binging kind of way. For me, James have been that band for over 20 years. I’ll listen to them over and over again, then have a break for a while. Then I see they’re touring, and I have to be there. Tonight, in Leeds, James were back, kicking off their All The Colours Of You tour. And my latest binge session was on.

It was my first indoor arena gig since the pandemic, and there was a brilliant atmosphere heading up to the venue. Once inside, this huge buzz was there too. And daisies on t-shirts were everywhere you looked.

James Leeds First Direct Arena 2021


“A reception coated in love and adulation”

As we filtered in stage-side, we got a 45 minute set from Happy Mondays, who were in good form. All their top songs, Bez maraccaing, Shaun displaying his Ryderness, and Rowetta close to blowing the roof off with her lungs. What a support, which got everyone in the room ready for the main event.

It was just after 9pm when James walked on stage. With it came a reception coated in love and adulation from the hordes of people who’d come to see them. And Tim Booth repaid the compliment by smiling as he said good evening to his West Yorkshire home crowd.

‘Zero’ kicked things off – with the ever honest “We’re all going to die” opening lyric.  And ‘Isabella’ followed, injecting a bit of life in to the air.  You never know how the set list is going to go at a James gig. When I’ve seen them before they’ve generally catered for the hardcore fan (or themselves) than play their greatest hits. Tonight was quite a balanced selection, with plenty to please everyone.

‘She’s A Star’ came out early, as did ‘Born Of Frustration’. The crowd were loving them, and they weren’t letting us down.

James At First Direct Arena

“Singing, swaying and cheering”

I was seated for this one. Like many, I’d rather stand at a gig – especially when I’m watching one of my favourite bands. But after what’s happened over the last 18 months or so, I was able to see everything clearly, including the crowd below me. To see thousands singing, swaying and cheering in unison – it meant something seeing all that going on. I’ll never take going to a live event for granted again.

The tequila party started when ‘Curse Curse’ came out halfway through. One of my favourite James tracks, and one I’d never heard live. So that made this fan happy. Classic ‘Come Home’ went down a storm as it always does, and ‘Attention’ sounded so good.  A surprise for me was the inclusion of ‘Hymn From A Village’ which I probably haven’t listened to in the last 10 years or more. It was a nice reminder of some of the big hitters that I’d forgotten about – but then James’ back catalogue is so vast, one can be forgiven for having a temporary mind lapse on some of it.

I guess with Covid at the forefront of everyone’s mind, Tim didn’t stage dive or climb up to the third tier this time around – but he didn’t need to. He, and the rest of the band were already giving us a special night.

James Leeds First Direct Arena 2021

“The best live act around”

They ended their main set with ‘Sound’, and when they came back for a three song encore, we got the tunes we were hoping for. As much as you think you have the right to hear them, you’re never guaranteed ‘Sit Down’ or ‘Laid’ at a James gig. It gives you a bit of anxiety wondering if they’ll play one or both! But tonight, we were rewarded with both of them, and that sent this brilliant crowd home very happy.

What a great gig, and what a great night. I often say that James are the best live act around.  And tonight they added weight to my argument with a stellar set, a tight performance and a show that was as good as ever.

Images: Andy Houghton


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