A fond farewell to the sound of Booth's James

Review by Jack Foley

James' farewell tour - Brighton Centre, December 2, 2001

WE'VE sat down with them, they've helped us to 'get laid' and now they've said farewell. James bowed out for the final time at The Brighton Centre, to mark the start of their farewell tour which culminates at Wembley on Monday (Dec 10). But boy has it been fun.

James, for me, are one of the best live acts around. In front man Tim Booth, they have a memorable performer; the type of singer who can honestly lose himself in the moment and give way to some truly outlandish dancing, which is often imitated, but seldom matched by fans. Vocally, he has few equals, flitting between the high extremes of Sound and Born of Frustration, to the less challenging, but no less impressive, vocals of Sit Down or Say Something.

Backing him is a band of pure talent; from the guitars, keyboards, drums and violins - they seldom miss a note and frequently reach some dizzying extremes. I have been fortunate enough to see James on several occasions; probably more times than any other band. They have never let me down. So it came as quite a blow to hear that Booth was leaving; that James was to be no more, at least in this form.

Sadder still was the realisation, at several points during the gig, that this was the last time I would be seeing them - reunion tour aside (if there is one). But at least this was a fitting way to bow out. They were at the peak of their form.

Starting with Say Something, James delivered a mixed bag of a set list, flitting from greatest hits to tracks from the new album, to past favourites. They were even joined by a former band member who probably felt like he had never been away. And their durability and versatility was plain for all to see.

On several occasions, Booth joked with the audience about doing things the hard way, of 'getting away with it all messed up'. At others, he poked fun at the critics, or simply moshed with the crowd. It is hard to believe, as he pursues a career in the movies, that he won't miss the giddy highs of the stage, especially when he can stop and listen as the crowd recites his own lyrics - chorus and verse - to him with such gleeful abandon.

They have done so on many occasions, of course, but this time carried with it an almost desperate plea to reconsider. The fans don't seem ready to let James go. They came in all ages - from young to middle aged - and a significant majority sported T-shirts of the various tours and albums they have enjoyed through the years. This was a trip down memory lane, a final fling, before Booth Laid James to rest.

It will come as little surprise, therefore, to hear that favourites such as Laid, Born of Frustration, Come Home, She's A Star, Johnny Yen and Sometimes drew the loudest roar of approval. But other moments were equally as unforgettable, such as the blistering version of Vervaceous, from the Millionaires album, or English Beefcake or Senorita, from Pleased to Meet You, the band's final release.

And the best was saved for last. Booth came up with two encores, one involving the beautiful Out To Get You ('a mental patient's favourite', according to the singer), and a blistering extended version of Sound, the other featuring the near obligatory Sit Down which, I suspect, is the band's least favourite hit. They have never been far from the charts with their material, but Sit Down represents them at their most commercial.

The chants of 'more, more, more' rang into the cold sea breeze long after the gig had finished, as fans registered their approval. Sadly, the cold fact remains, there is to be no more. James may be gone, but in this reviewers' memories, they will never be forgotten.

Click here for a review of Turin Brakes in support