James – Live Review – Halifax Victoria Theatre
By Victoria Holdsworth, May 2018
It would seem that Halifax is becoming the new Leeds for musical outings. Tonight, this magnificently beautiful theatre is hosting one of the most iconic bands of our times. So it’s somewhat fitting that James are playing in such a grand venue – if there was ever a band that could suit the majesty of the setting it is them.
As the Manchester legends took to the stage, amidst thundering, body shakingly loud tribal drum beats, the crowd went absolutely ballistic. With lead singer Tim Booth soaking in every single accolade the band launch into ‘Hank’.
The place is packed out tonight, yet this theatre has a knack of making things feel very intimate. The bar has been set and it is only going to get higher if the crowd have anything to do with it. ‘Heads’ and ‘Ring The Bells’ were a taster of old and new, and that is pretty much how the evening went all night, flitting between their vast catalogue of work.
‘Leviathan’, ‘Five-O’ and ‘To My Surprise’ were absolutely solid gold, and whilst Booth’s voice did falter on a few occasions, it was ignored and nearly drowned out by the unfazed crowd. Anyone would have thought The Stones had rolled into town to do a secret gig such was the atmosphere and camaraderie between band and audience, not to mention the rip roaring noise for the sing-a-longs.
“Charisma by the bucket load”
Booth continued to whip the crowd up into a frenzy. While he’s performing ‘Gone Baby Gone’ he helps grapple a fan out of the crowd, on to the stage, and has a dance off with them, which saw some of the wildest moves I have ever bore witness to!
There was even some daredevil stunts tonight, with Booth taking his life in his own hands during ‘Born of Frustration’ as he crawled up the lighting rig and proceeded to take a bottom clenching walk along the balcony of the theatre. If that wasn’t enough, he also partook in some crowd surfing, at one point exclaiming: “I’m liking Halifax on a Sunday night”.
Tonight saw a lot of the new songs being performed, with James fans taking every one to heart, but the older tunes are still the ones that get the best reactions.
A James gig is something close to a spiritual experience these days. There is a sage-like, mystical quality about Tim Booth, which you cannot help being drawn to. He has charisma by the bucket load, but manages to stay earthy at the same time, and is very relatable in his persona and lyrics.
One of the best songs for me tonight, was in fact one of the new tunes from the EP, ‘Better Than That’, and I had wondered how it would sound live when I reviewed it last week. It was everything I had imagined it to be, so up close and personal, with Tim Booth weaving his way through the crowd like the pied piper.
I adore James’s ability to connect with their fan base and audience. Most members of bands wouldn’t even dare stick a toe over the edge of the stage, let alone hurl themselves into the very thick of it, but such is the trust, displayed by both sides, Tim Booth just knows how safe he is with kindred spirits.
Political issues tonight were kept to a minimum, and unlike the one who calls himself Morrissey, Tim Booth has an air of class about him, and can make a point without any brutal imagery or self-indulgence to make his views stick.
Unfortunately the end of the night came about too soon, not just for the fans, but also for Booth, who looked like he could have performed for another two hours and then some. The band were so tightly in tune with each other, they could have played blindfolded, and the energy that each of them put into the 23 songs tonight was a display of pure musical heroism.
The set ends on ‘Come Home’, which ignites a huge grin on Booth’s face, as the audience sings back every single word. The atmosphere is pulsating, right down to the very last note, and the band leave the stage, to what sounded like millions of stomping feet.
An encore of ‘Sometimes’ and the festival favourite ‘Laid’ left the crowd still wanting more, but Tim Booth announces, “See you around.”
Although the flower may have faded somewhat from their logo; one thing that has never waned is the fans’ love for James. It remains resolute after all these years.