James’ Monday night Usher Hall performance is the powerful result of the work of a group of highly skilled musicians and a career spanning almost forty years. Supporting themselves with an acoustic set before the main show, totalling about two and a half hours of live music, the band put together a show that is well-balanced, considered and most importantly thoroughly enjoyable.
The acoustic set felt intimate without being too ‘stripped-down’or slow, and performances like ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’ with the lyrics “My mind is diseased, even my vision is impaired, I’m losing my hair” somehow shrink the room until you are sitting right there on the stage.
If the half-hour interval between sets gets you into a lull, you are bound to be abruptly awakened by the pounding drums of the opening number ‘Hank’ from their most recent album, 2018’s Living in Extraordinary Times. The dystopian sound over eerily familiar lyrics talking about “Jim Crow rules in the crack down” and how “rulers rule by divide” set a major theme for the show, which is only to get more hopeful from here. The megaphone wielded by frontman Tim Booth evokes images of protest and revolution.
Booth’s on-stage chat, though mainly light-hearted in contrast with the heavier lyrics, also includes dedicating a performance of ‘All Good Boys’ to young activist Greta Thunberg following Friday’s international school strike for the climate, which in Edinburgh took place outside Parliament. Quite an elegant and non-divisive way to show support; the message being spoken through this show is about love not war.
Despite being crutched and in pain, Booth showcased some great energy and after two stage dives he shouts “I can’t dance but you can dance for me!” Every member of the band have fantastic stage presence and they all seem like a big family having an absolute ball. They manage to keep the audience captive from the start and by the third song, ‘Waltzing Along,’ a full on dance party erupts on the floor and balconies. Classics like ‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’ and ‘Laid’ receive similar reactions.
The show has a couple of less significant moments but it is generally both well structured and executed by the band members and stage technicians. With regards to the latter, the lights show is particularly engaging, a fierce rhythmic compliment to the music.
After a standing ovation the band returned to stage, joined by Usher Hall’s Love Music Community Choir, to perform an intense encore of four songs. The rendition of ‘Many Faces,’backed by the choir, and eventually every audience member, is the most memorable part of the show, with the lyrics “There’s only one human race, many faces, everybody belongs here.”
The verdict comes in the second standing ovation which lasts throughout the entire final song; it is quite clear that James hold the hearts of every one in the room.
Image: Drew de F Fawkes via Wikimedia Commons