Okay, so this review is two weeks late. So is the fIREHOSE one that I will post after this one, but I have been busy as hell with the new job (which I am loving!) and getting through training there. That has been accomplished, I move to a great new schedule and now have Mondays off to engage in the blog work once again.
Normally around this time I post about concerts I plan to attend during the next month but since only three jump out at me I will list them here before getting into the James review.
- Death Cab for Cutie – May 6 at the Mesa Arts Center
- Snow Patrol – May 14 at Comerica Theatre
- Jon Rauhouse – May 16 at Crescent Ballroom
I have to be honest, I was looking forward to seeing James for the first time but I was not expecting the incredible show that was delivered. This is one of those eighties Manchester bands that was always somewhat of an afterthought compared to The Chameleons, The Smiths and New Order. I always liked them and absolutely loved many of their singles, but other than their sophomore effort Strip-Mine I never owned any of their proper studio albums. The lead song from that album was “What For?”, one of my favorite songs from James and the first video I saw from the band. That song was also included on the Sire Records compilation Just Say Yo, an album that also featured The Mighty Lemon Drops and Ahouse.
Therefore, seeing them nineteen years after their watershed fifth album and US college radio breakthrough Laid was released in 1993 I was worried this would be a band that would join that group of “older bands that should have stayed broken up”. Oh my, was I wrong!
Several early and original members of the band are a part of the group today, including bassist Jim Glennie, a member of James from day one, guitarist Larry Gott who joined the band after original guitarist and founding member Paul Gilbertson was asked to leave the band, and vocalist Tim Booth who was originally asked to join the band as a dancer. These three gentlemen created the foundation for James, were the nucleus during the band’s prime in the early nineties and more important, were all present for this Marquee gig.
Over the years I had read many reviews stating James was a band that absolutely poured its heart and soul into its live performances. I saw some evidence of that from the “Sit Down” video, but we all know the Real McCoy is so much better. They were amazing.
First of all, James played so well, so flawlessly that even the constraints of playing at the Marquee Theatre could not spoil what James was delivering to their fans. The members of the band were so in tune with one another and so precise with the delivery that the sound was just as good, if not better than anything they created on record. I was truly in awe watching the stellar multiple guitar delivery coupled with a wonderful rhythm section take songs such as “Say Something” and “What For” and deliver them with a beauty and passion that only a band of high-caliber could accomplish.
Second, Andy Diagram is one of the best trumpet players I have ever seen, absolutely unbelievable. I was already in awe when he was onstage, but late in the show he played nearly half a song from the dance floor among the fans. Awesome, awesome, awesome! Every note he hit during the evening was crisp and crystal clear, delivered with a powerful allure. The element he added to this concert for me is what transformed this show from a great concert to what I currently feel is the Show of the Year to this point.
Third, I cannot believe Tim Booth still sounds so good! His vocal delivery still sounds wonderful, absolutely essential on every James song. “Laid” was delivered with the exact passion I would expect from him and a good song in “Out to Get You” became an incredible moment listening to Booth stretch the boundaries of that song to dizzying heights. Like Diagram he spent nearly an entire song moving throughout the crowd, maintaining his focus on the song while interacting with the appreciative crowd. It was an amazing sight to behold.
What a concert!!! I am so grateful that one of the bands I never had a chance to see when I was in my twenties finally made it to the Valley of the Sun. The crowd was nowhere near as big as it should have been for such a great band, but for those of us there we left the Marquee knowing we had experienced live music properly delivered in a manner that inspires emotion and leaves a long-lasting feeling of goodwill. You could not leave that show and not believe that music can, at least temporarily, fix what is wrong with this world.
Yes, James was that good. Thank you Coachella for lasting two weekends this year, allowing Arizona the opportunity to host James in between festival weekends.