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James - Royal Albert Hall, London, 19/11/2014

  by Owen Peters

published: 8 / 12 / 2014

James - Royal Albert Hall, London, 19/11/2014


Owen Peters watches James play a frenzied but enthralling set at the Royal Albert Hall in London

James really don't need a stage if their recent performance at the Royal Albert Hall was anything to go by. They were in the midst of playing a short set of shows to promote their recent album 'La Petite Mort', of which the Royal Albert Hall was their first high profile London date. They opened up with 'Lose Control'... but, er, no one was on stage. A trumpet accompaniment rang around this iconic establishment, but still no one was on stage. A spotlight provided all the answers. Tim Booth and Andy Diagram were at the rear of the auditorium flanked by security guards, pressing the flesh as they madee their slow, fan photo-snapping way to the stage. The Manchester Pied Pipers were on their way. The band once assembled on stage opened with 'Walk Like You' and 'Oh, My Heart' at full throttle. Only three songs into the set, Booth then went into dance mode, with the audience going crazy. Leaving the stage, he mounted the segregation security barrier, now standing some eight/ten feet above the audience. Booth fell forward into the crowd. There was an audible gasp of concern. Worry not, this was a showman at work. He was carried along at head height on a wave of supporting hands, all the while continuing to sing, absolutely note perfect. At times like this he must wonder if his black kilt, or curtain trousers as some would call them, were a good choice of attire. Like a Roman emperor, he was carried along on his journey of crowd surfing. Parading complete, he was returned safely by his legion of followers. Having whipped the 4,000 Royal Albert Hall audience into something akin to a frenzy, James hit a flat spot on the next four to five songs. 'I Want to Go Home' and 'What’s the World' took down expectations. The slower tracks, such as 'All Good Boys', offered an opportunity of lyrical appreciation. This crowd just wanted to party. New tracks such as 'All I’m Saying' and 'Moving On' from the new album will be anthems next time around, once their lyrics have had more opportunity to be absorbed. At some points of the gig, it was a masterclass of musicianship. A violin solo by Saul Davies and lead guitar improvisation by Larry Gott confirmed they were a diverse and skilled band, not just a lead singer and his pantaloons. When selected members of the audience were invited to dance with Booth on stage, it was pure entertainment, fun and an experience they are unlikely ever to forget. 'Getting Away with It' ignited the party atmosphere once again. With his trance-like dancing, tai chi, prowling tiger movements, soaring vocals, emotive and emotional lyrics, Booth is the complete package. Yes, there was an encore and once again we were playing hide and seek, known also as 'Where are the band?' Well, it was no use looking on the stage. It was a silly place to look for Booth and co. really. We had Booth up on the top tier of this auditorium offering 'Frustration', with Diagram on trumpet accompaniment from a fire exit left on the first upper tier. The finale of songs were 'Top of the World' and 'Fred Astaire', once the two roaming band members were re-united with their part time stage. James give all indications they didn’t want to leave, while the audience wanted a more upbeat ending to their night. Some of the set selections didn’t work for me. Besides the mid concert flat point, the encore offerings came across as self-absorbed and as songs the band wanted to play, not necessarily what the audience wanted to hear. Overall they offered a mixture of old and new, dance and ponder, sing-a-long and listen. James are an excellent band of musicians, Booth a fine performer and showman extraordinaire. No matter the size of venue, if you get the chance, go and see James, but not all the activity may be stage-based. Photos by Alexia Arrizabalaga www.troubleshooteur.com

Also at Royal Albert Hall, London

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James - Royal Albert Hall, London, 19/11/2014

James - Royal Albert Hall, London, 19/11/2014

James - Royal Albert Hall, London, 19/11/2014

James - Royal Albert Hall, London, 19/11/2014

James - Royal Albert Hall, London, 19/11/2014

Visitor Comments:-
731 Posted By: Jeannot, London on 25 Dec 2014
Unless they came back on after the house lights were up and everyone halfway to South Ken tube station, they didn't play Fred Astaire.

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