Live Review: James // Manchester Arena , Manchester 13.05.16

Friday 13th, a day deemed by many to be permanently unlucky however it is also the date of James’ homecoming show in Manchester. The beloved band have returned with their new album Girl At The End Of The World, something that’s nothing short of a musical masterpiece. Just before James take the stage, the crowd get into place and a hurricane of chatter and excitement swirls around the vast room.

James take the stage and roaring chants of “We Are James” soar around the arena, finding their way into every crack of the 21,000 capacity venue. The crowd are treated to a beautiful rendition of ‘Out to Get You’, which helps ease those in attendance into an evening that fails to shift out of a high-octane tempo. The band then dives straight into new material from their latest album.

‘To My Surprise’ and ‘Surfers Song’ are welcomed as if they are classic tracks from the James backlog with ‘Were You Just Born An Asshole’ being sang wholeheartedly by the crowd. Such passion is also apparent with iconic songs such as ‘Come Home’ and ‘Sometimes’, where the band aren’t even required to play due to their lyrics being howled back fervently at them. ‘Catapult’ sees the fists of many loving fans rise high above the crowd, in what is a sign of unity amongst the hoard of James loving revellers.

‘Girl At The End Of The World’ and ‘Bitch’ show how well the band can transition from their older material to their new without a hiccup, and further demonstrate the evolution of one of rock’s mainstays. During ‘Girl At The End Of The World’ the backdrop was a beautiful constellation of stars, which felt like the perfect visual accompaniment to this song.

James’ demonstration of their acoustic numbers truly highlight how their softer side is just as good as the coarse rock that they so often omit. ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’ sounds even more doting when produced in its acoustic form. The melodic swoops and swirls encapture the crowd, as those in attendance hang so devotedly to the tip of every lyric.

The next three songs whirl around in a vast frenzy and as the ‘final’ song ‘Attention’ is played the outcries for more echo throughout the arena. James leave the stage and the lights go down.

With the arena engulfed in total darkness, a lone spotlight illuminates the steps at the back of the venue, where Andy Diagram begins to descend from the heavens. In unison, the side stairs are also lit up revealing Saul Davies and Tim Booth, who emerge to begin playing a rendition of ‘Sit Down’. This anthemic number is undoubtedly one of the highlights from a bountiful set and by its ending there are very few dry eyes, which reflects the emotion that such dulcet moments can bring.

The encore continues with ‘Moving On’ and their once again ‘final’ song ‘Nothing But Love’, which seemed to be the pinnacle of an incredible set, until they decide to roll into another acoustic rendition of ‘What For’. Eventual showstopper, literally, ‘Tomorrow provides the perfect exit for a band who are the masters when it comes to curating an exhilarating hit-laden set.

Despite the line-up changes throughout the years, James remain just as strong now as they did upon their formation 34 years ago. The love and energy they submit into each of their shows is a testament to their adoration for music and their fans. James could stand proud at the end of their homecoming show.

Words by Jessica Borden


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