James return to Atlanta and feel the love

Live Review: James at the Variety Playhouse in Atlanta, 9/22/10

For a band to remain relevant is a challenge these days. For the seven piece Manchester band James, this seems to be a walk in the park. Granted, they have some of the most dedicated fans in music. After back-to-back brilliant albums Seven (1992) and Laid (1993), most music afficianados may have reported the band as gone and forgotten. Not so. James continued releasing good stuff.

Most of James’ success can be attributed to lead singer and mercurial mover Tim Booth. That voice is a wonder and has lost nothing in the band’s nearly 30-year career. It’s a lithesome and beautiful instrument that is instantly recognizable. And to see him move/dance/shake takes every song a notch higher. It’s Michael Stipe squared, with flailing arms and such, putting Elvis Presley’s hips and James Brown’s legs to shame.

The night began on a mellow note with “Dust Motes” off the new release The Day Before The Morning After. Several cuts off the new one were played, all with a decent response from the fans. The new songs blend seemlessly with the back catalog of songs. Throughout the evening, Booth thanked fans and showed genuine appreciation. He mentioned that it had been quite a while since his last visit (14 years) and was visited onstage by R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe and Peter Buck. While in town, “Michael and I went shopping for women’s dresses” (see the cover of Laid for reference).

One of the clear highlights was the spectacular “Out To Get You,” with Booth singing, “Insecure, what you gonna do / Feel so small they could step on you / Called you up, answering machine / When the human touch / Is what I need, what I need, what I need, what I need, what I need.” This, like most songs on this night, had plenty of audience accompaniment.

During “Say Something,” Booth traversed his way through the audience, shaking hands and walking down a row of seats across the armrests. At song’s end, he was quite a distance from the stage, yelling to bandmates, “What’s the next song? What’s the next song!” Then, the opening chords of “Laid” began to a roaring crowd. He hastily made his way back to the stage and brought the house down with this excellent song. For the choir parts on “Sometimes,” the audience were again part of the song. “Sometimes when I look into your eyes I can see your soul” was repeated over and over by the crowd, while Booth stood motionless just taking it all in. He then joined in on the singing for a beautiful finale.

After announcing that “Getting Away With It” was the band’s theme song then performing that song, they left the stage and returned once again for a resounding “Sit Down.” During this song, several young women crawled on stage and sat down behind Booth. It was a great evening for James fans who heard a nice mix of old and new. More than likely, this talented group of musicians won’t wait another 14 years to return.

The Tom Waits- and Jeff Buckley-inspired Ed Harcourt warmed the crowd up nicely.

Set List:

Dust Motes
Dream Thrum
Tell Her I Said So
It’s Hot
Born Of Frustration
Ring The Bells
Lookaway
She’s A Star
I Wanna Go Home
Out To Get You
Five-O
Stutter
Come Home
Say Something
Laid
Sound

Encore:
Bubbles
Sometimes
Getting Away With It

2nd Encore:
Sit Down

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