Live Review: James – Utiltia Arena, Newcastle 05.06.2024

Craig Young

The third stop on the band’s tour supporting their new album ‘Yummy’, had James entertaining the Geordies at the Utiltia Arena in Newcastle, which would be the second North East gig after an intimate warm-up show at The Globe in Stockton last Friday.

Moments after taking the stage, that familiar theme of ‘She’s A Star’ rang out over the arena. What better way to start? It is one of the many classic James tracks that was played tonight, including ‘Sit Down’, ‘Come Home’, and ‘Laid’. Tim Booth, Jim Glennie, Saul Davies, Adrian Oxaal, David Baynton-Power, Mark Hunter, Andy Diagram, Chloe Alper and Deborah Knox-Hewson sound as good as ever and what a sound.

The first of a few times, Tim Booth heads down the steps to sing amongst the audience, standing up on the barriers and pleasing the devoted fans at the front. Asking one to put their phone down so he can see them, “I want to see who I am performing for”, he mentions. This comes after a plea by the band for fans not to use their phones during the band’s performance, not that this was obeyed. Something Booth acknowledged before the band played one of the new album tracks ‘Mobile God’.

Keeping the mood up with ‘Waltzing Along’ and ‘Our World’, it was time to introduce some new tracks ‘Hey’ and the impressive slogan-creating ‘Life Is A Fucking Miracle’. Supported by choir-style backing singers from Manchester’s Inspirational Voices Gospel Choir, one member gave a lung full through on ‘Mobile God’ later on during the show.

The set was sprinkled with new songs, with a highlight being ‘Shadown Of The Giant’, possibly too much of an intimate track for the size of the place tonight, and Booth thanking the crowd for staying with it, not that anyone in the place was struggling as they gave the band their full attention. It was also a pleasure to see Booth appreciate the band members’ talent as Saul Davies picked up the violin and Alper delivered some superb vocal moments, joining in with the choir. In fact, it’s Alper and Booth who give us one of tonight’s memorable moments as they join together singing to each other on ‘Better With You’, which is described as an apocalyptic love song.

Whilst Booth was still down with the front row, Chloe Alper kicked off another James belter with Getting ‘Away With It All (Messed Up)’, which was hugely appreciated by the arm-raising crowd, and following it up with ‘Tomorrow’ was a masterstroke in crowd management, something James are known. Davies was the only other member to address the audience, commenting on the stage collapsing in Aberdeen and the need to “tune-up even though he has never played in tune before and it’s not mattered”

After the beauty comes the dirty riffing and the return of the snake hips and crazy arms as the band rips into ‘JamJ’ and the roof is again blown off the house. Setting the audience up for that big single ‘Sit Down’. It’s not a James gig without a few key songs, and as the intro to Sit Down rang out, you can’t help but be drawn into the enthusiastic crowd who ironically but not surprisingly chose to stand up as is the way of this song. After 30 years of this track, it still sounds fresh, wonderful, and needed. It’s a song for the soul, and it rang out as the audience took over the last verse unaccompanied.

We get some call and response with the crowd and Tim at the beginning of ‘Nothing But Love’ that even includes some good old fashioned crowd surfing as Booth gets carried deep into the crowd before finally making it back to close proceedings, pre-encore that is, with ‘Sometimes (Lester Piggot)’

As expected, the band returned to the stage for a three-song encore starting with ‘Over Your Head’, another from ‘Yummy’ that would have been a ‘raised lighter moment’ back in the day. Still, it’s the classic round-up of ‘Come Home’, ‘Beautiful Beaches’, which ended with a blistering drum solo from twin percussionist David Baynton-Power and Deborah Knox-Hewson and finally ending with the acoustic-driven Laid. Proving once again that it’s the classics that really get the James fans going.

You must admit it; whether you are a fan or not, James put on a show. They give you everything you could want from a band with no definitive structure or arrangement to their music. If you want dirty, funky disco groves, you have it; soulful vocals have that too, with tracks like ‘Tomorrow’, huge pop bangers ‘Sit Down’ Obviously, check, and even songs that say something such as ‘Mobile God’. The world is a better place to have James in it.

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