James, Nadeah @ The Gov, Adelaide 19/11/2018

Surprisingly for a band with such history (thirty five years as an ongoing concern although with a mid-career hiatus in the early 2000s), this is only James second Australian tour and their first visit to Adelaide, making this a special night for the audience assembled. Support act Nadeah she does her best to engage the audience with some success but plays to a mostly to a disinterested crowd gathering in their chosen positions awaiting the main event. Apart from the uncompromising chatter, she performed an accomplished set and it will be interesting to see her in another setting in the future.

The first song that James play is Hank from their latest album Living in Extraordinary Times, afterwards singer Tim Booth comments, “One man down… even without bass it sounded good”. This is in reference to David Tennant look-alike (and the other mainstay of the band) Jim Glennie’s technical issues that are resolved early into the next song, the title song of the album. In a set that is a fair cross-section of their career, a third of the set is made up of that album’s songs positioned appropriately amongst the more familiar anthems and experimental interludes to maintain momentum. After a dive into their back catalogue for the next three songs they return to the present with the percussion exercise that is Heads which could be described as James-techno and is a fitting lead in to the bass and percussion heavy early single Stutter as though there was not a thirty year plus span between the songs.

Tim Booth is a mesmerising front man and charismatic individual and it is difficult to take your eyes off him as he dances manically during the instrumental breaks. Early on he steps off the stage and stands on the security barrier supported by a single fan’s hand to sing directly into the audience. Twice during the set he makes excursions into the audience to interact with fans, members of the audience excitedly attempting to match his dancing style without any significant success. His is not the only band member to make a foray amongst the audience though as much later in the set during the encore trumpet player Andy Diagram appears deep in the crowd standing on a barrier, hanging on a support beam as he and the band plays the penultimate song, Sound.

Following the audience sing along of She’s A Star, Tim introduces Picture of this Place as “a song we’ve never played in front of a paying audience before” and the band play their heaviest song of the night, a retro-futuristic rocker that once again this evening defies expectation and displays their incredible versatility. There are a couple more songs including the uplifting Tomorrow before the main set ends with songs from the Gold Mother album, How was it for you and the funky Stone Roses-like Come Home.

When the band return for the encore, Tim takes a moment to moment to question the times we live in and the current state of American politics. This culminates in the beautiful and moving extended audience participation during Many Faces. Tim gives a heartfelt “Thanks”, visibly moved. During the next song, Sound, lead guitarist Adrian Oxaal (who has spent practically the entire set playing nearly offstage in the small walkway between the stage and the dressing room) momentarily becomes the centre of attention during his fucked up guitar solo that actually sounds more like he is making mistakes than playing guitar. Following Sound, on a whim and perhaps as an unacknowledged reward for the audience’s involvement in the performance of Many Faces, Tim precedes the final song by stating, “Let’s do something really corny and end on Sit Down. We don’t usually do this but we’ve never been here before”. After the sing along performance, the eight members of the band assemble at the front of the stage to bow to the audience. This sold out appearance was very well received and from the response that this Adelaide audience gave, they have proven that James certainly have reason enough to return again.

Live review by Jason Leigh

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