Live Review: James, Summer Sessions, Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, Thu 15 Aug
- Henry Northmore
- 16 August 2019
New, urgent, political material alongside 90s classics from Tim Booth and co.
Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly is a pleasant start to proceedings, but Sam Duckworth's solo acoustic guitar work struggles to cut through the chatter and grab the crowd. Fatherson, however, are a big bolt of indie energy in their block colour suits. They've really grown as a band over the years with an assured, dynamic live show that is vibrant and captivating, mixing soaring melodies with elements of grunge rock.
James promise a set of 'quiet, soft, loud' songs in that order. Things kick off as promised with 'She's a Star' with its mournful trumpet solo; however, a few songs in they're derailed by a broken bass. Jim Glennie fills time with some cheesy jokes before Tim Booth leads the band through an impromptu acoustic rendition of 'Sit Down' as they deal with technical problems.
Back on track, Booth breaks out his raving monkey moves to 'Walk Like You.' He's embraced his wonderful weirdness; an otherworldly presence, magnetic and charismatic as he bobs and weaves around the stage.
The new material (from recent album Living in Extraordinary Times) is more urgent and obviously political. Particularly 'HANK', which opens with the lines 'This crack head's tiny fingers / Accusing you of what he'll do / White fascists in the White House / More beetroot in your Russian stew.' Which received 'a mixed reception in America', Booth jokes. Later the band fall silent as the crowd take up the chorus and message of inclusivity from 'Many Faces' ('There's only one human race / Many faces / Everybody belongs here'). It's a beautiful moment that guitarist Saul Davies dedicates to Scotland, 'the only sensible place in Britain.'
Then it's straight into 'Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)', a majestic 'Laid', then the rolling bass of 'Come Home.' James are sometimes overlooked in the pantheon of British music but their back catalogue is packed with diverse and brilliantly constructed tracks. However, Living in Extraordinary Times proves they could never be classed as a nostalgia act while they are still producing some of their greatest music almost 40 years after they formed.
Reviewed at Summer Sessions, Edinburgh, Thu 15 Aug.