James – Live Review – Leeds Arena

James Live Review Leeds Arena (2)

By Victoria Holdsworth, June 2024

Leeds felt electrified for James at the Arena, with support from Razorlight, who delivered an crowd-pleasing set before the ever-evolving James took to the stage to a raucous welcome from the sold-out crowd.

Looking stylish in his trademark bohemian chic, Tim Booth and his band walked out and got straight down to business with the Iggy Pop-inspired ‘Johnny Yen’, released back in 1986 from the album Stutter. The track still sounded fresh and was a cracking opener, which saw Booth quip to the crowd afterwards, “Oh, there’ll be trouble tonight!”

The full band joined in on stage for ‘Waltzing Along’, already 27 years old, and performed with musical precisiong. The crowd warmed up as the band slid into a newer track, ‘Our World’ from new album Yummy, followed by another newie, ‘Rouge’, which tells a story of ageism. When Tim Booth sang the lyrics: “I need a drink to spill my blackest ink / Still think that I am chasing thirty-one / Beauty privileges wasted on the young,” you could see it visibly resonate with the audience.

‘Life’s a Fuc*ing Miracle’ saw Tim go on his first crowd surf, everyone offering helping hands to move him where he felt he needed to be, without incident and much to everyone’s delight. The energy in the arena was tangible when they slipped into another firm favourite, ‘Ring the Bells’, but it was ‘Better With You’ that really made people sit up and take notice. The stage visuals started, making the entire arena look as though it was bathed in the Northern Lights. The vocal efforts from new band member Chloe Alper, alongside Booth, were beautifully intimate, coupled with an exceptional vocal injection from the choir. It made for a stunning performance.

The outstanding vocals continued throughout ‘Butterfly’, which Tim announced as a live debut to their set. Again, Booth’s vocals blended seamlessly with Alper’s while 3D images of butterflies flew from the back screen, appearing to fill the entire stage. Booth had made it very clear from the outset that he did not want people on their mobile phones all night and suggested there would be no more crowd surfing if they did, which seemed to be respected by most of the crowd before he belted out ‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’, one of the standout tunes tonight. This saw the second round of Tim Booth getting up close and personal with his fans.

‘Shadow of a Giant’ dropped the levels a little before the familiar tones of ‘Out to Get You’ gently lulled the audience into their safe place once again. Subtle rhythmic drum beats throughout made it trance-inducing and calming until the violin solo from Saul Davies, who pulled off an absolute showstopper. It was so epic, where even Tim joked, “He said he was gonna play it subdued tonight!”

“Admiration and respect”

James Live Review Leeds Arena (1)Another new track, ‘Mobile God’ failed to engage the crows, which did not go unnoticed by Booth et al. The digitally manipulated images on the screens showed both the band and the audience as androids. It seemed a bit lost on most of the audience, and upon the last note echoing out, Tim Booth playfully told the crowd, “You should have done your homework, then you might have enjoyed that! Some of these songs will be just as popular as the ones you know off by heart!”

During the last song, Tim Booth held back out of the spotlight on stage, surveying his band members and the musicians on stage. The look of admiration and respect on his face as he watched them go about their crafts was amazing to catch a glimpse of.

‘Tomorrow’ is one of James’s greatest tacks. Still an anthem, relevant and captivating with its catchy guitar slides and persistent drum rolls.

The ever-so-funky ‘Come Home’ from Gold Mother is typical of its 90’s rooted sounds and whipped the crowd into a frenzy. Some weird shapes were thrown by even the oldest gig-goers.

Ending the set on the still phemnomenal  ‘Sometimes’, the lyrical imagery spilling from Booth’s mouth into every ear in the place raised smiles all around. The band left the stage briefly to regroup for the encore, which began with another great track from Yummy.

‘Way Over Your Head’ not only shows the maturity in their musical stylings over all these years but also the lyrical wisdom of Booth as a writer and a poet. ‘Beautiful Beaches’ was a pleasant surprise inclusion from one of their best albums, All the Colours of You, audibly pitting Booth’s rich vocals against the electronic pulses, really working much better as a live track than on the album.

The obligatory James theme tune ‘Sit Down’ set the arena ablaze with vocals from the crowd. However, just before the last chorus, Tim Booth noticed someone having medical difficulties in the crowd and stopped for a moment until some help was on the way, before ending the tune triumphantly.

‘Laid’ finished the night with every voice at top hilt. With the fans not wanting them to leave, Tim Booth teetered on the front row barrier, taking one last look at the people that keep him on the stage.

While the audience tonight may not have taken to some of the newer material, the defining mood was of  a band and its audience sharing a mutual, long-term fondness and friendship. Long may the bond continue.

Top image: Paul Dixon


Leave a reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.