James – Tolbooth, Stirling, 08/10/2014

When I woke up last Tuesday and had a casual browse through my facebook page on the way to work, the last thing I expected to find was the more than pleasant surprise that James were playing the tiny Tolbooth in my native Stirling for the second time in 18 months! Upon discovering this, the next challenge was to get a couple of the tickets for the 165 person venue to see a band that regularly plays to arena crowds. Fortunately I was one of the extremely grateful people who would get the opportunity to see them at the Tolbooth for the second time, and the gig more than lived up to expectations.

The set up on this occasion was all seating (cramped I may add!) and there was a sense of anticipation as we awaited the band on stage. Some gentlemen had dressed spectacularly for the occasion, in dresses to recreate the ‘Laid’ album cover, and the devotion on show was clear to see! The band came on stage just before 9pm and played for around 75 minutes, alternating new tracks, songs that hadn’t been played in ages, and some fantastic anecdotes from a career that spans around 30 years now.

The set began with the melodic ‘Dream Thrum’ from 1993 album ‘Laid’, before showcasing several songs from their latest album ‘La Petite Mort’. For a band on their 13th major release, 28 years after they released their debut ‘Stutter’, it’s remarkable how fresh their music still sounds, and it was great to hear some of the new tracks live (disappointed with no ‘Curse Curse’ but there’s always Glasgow next month!). It was clear that the band (well just Tim really!) hadn’t quite got to grips with some of the new material, with a couple of false starts that drew a couple of laughs for the crowd. A less seasoned band may have let the nerves show, but these occasions were welcome opportunities for some terrific James stories, primarily told by Tim himself!

Particular highlights of the set for me were the beautiful ‘Bitter Virtue’ from the newest album, and the always welcome ‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’, but the full show was terrific, and it was great to hear so many tracks that rarely get an airing. Anyone turning up and expecting ‘Laid’ or ‘Sit Down’ would have been disappointed, but this wasn’t that kind of gig and it was clear that the vast majority of the crowd were incredibly appreciative to see the band in such a small and intimate venue.

Finishing the set with ‘Top of the World’, the band then returned for a Q&A which presented more opportunities for great anecdotes, covering topics as varied as dementia, homophobic Korn fans and when the band would return to the famous Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow! All in all, this was a fantastic night and a fantastic experience for all of the fortunate fans that managed to get their hands on tickets, and more confirmation (as if it was needed!) that this is still a band at the top of their game.

James tour the UK in November, playing the Hydro in Glasgow on Saturday 15th November.

Setlist

  1. Dream Thrum
  2. Walk Like You
  3. She’s A Star
  4. Frozen Britain
  5. Undertaker
  6. Blue Pastures
  7. The Shining
  8. Interrogation
  9. Bitter Virtue
  10. All I’m Saying
  11. Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
  12. Top of the World

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