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James - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 7/5/2023

  by Dixie Ernill

published: 3 / 7 / 2023

James - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 7/5/2023

Some concerts are great because of the set list, some are great because of the location, some are great because of the company you are with and some because of who is playing. Tonight, whilst all of the above apply, the main reason this concert is great, nay, this concert is incredible is the energy transmitted from the stage. The sheer force of unison and joy between the band, the orchestra and the gospel choir that make up the near forty people assembled is tangible and utterly infectious. Barely three songs in my girlfriend, who has limited knowledge of the band, save for the radio friendly singles, is wiping tears from her face, Such is the emotional punch of the event unfolding. I am more au fait with James’ back-catalogue having been an avid fan in my late teens and early twenties back in the 1980s and 1990s, but haven’t bought an album of theirs since ‘The Night Before’ in 2010. As such much of the two sets are pretty alien to me too, but it doesn’t matter a jot as I am also swept up by the occasion, and this is an occasion that will remain etched into my mind and tattooed gently onto my heart forever. Whilst, the older songs evoke memories of the possibilities of youth a third of a lifetime ago – ‘Medieval’ being an absolute treat with its pounding drums - it’s the new (to me) songs that create the real hairs standing up on your neck moments, particularly when the individual gospel singers take centre stage or when the orchestra explodes and move like a spell-binding orgy of string and brass. The element of theatre and drama is enhanced too in a way the band alone couldn’t achieve. Of course there are the crowd pleasing moments such as ‘Ten Below’, ‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’ and ‘Sometimes’, and sing-a-longs to understated versions of ‘Laid’ and ‘Sit Down’, spared the bombastic thump by subtle strings, but the positive message portrayed in the brilliantly played ‘All the Colours of You’ and ‘Many Faces’ top the lot. The fact that ‘Born of Frustration’ follows these two in the encore to end the show, but can’t surpass them, highlights hat the relevance of James forty years on from when they started, remains as strong as ever and I for one have some tching up to do. I have been to hundreds of gigs over the last 35 years and seen some great bands and great shows, but very very few have come close to this.

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James - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 7/5/2023

James - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 7/5/2023

James - Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, 7/5/2023

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Dixie Ernill at the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool watches James play an euphoric set with the aid of an orchestra and a gospel choir.


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