‘Live From Times Square’ sees a series of open air concerts take place in Newcastle Upon Tyne each Summer, with this year’s line up including Jake Bugg, LeftField, James, The Libertines, Hacienda Classical, Manic Street Preachers and Brian Wilson Presents Pet Sounds. On Saturday night we caught James’ headline slot, with support from Peter Hook and the Light.
The last few years have seen legendary bassist Peter Hook pay homage to his career in Joy Division and New Order, playing comprehensive sets drawn from the back catalogues of both. Joined by his five-piece band ‘The Light’, it was just seconds before the crowd were deafened with the tense bass line of ‘No Love Lost’, before Hooky continued his brooding intro with ‘Digital’ and the burly anthem ‘Disorder’. The first half of the set focused on Joy Division, with the rawness of Hooky’s vocals falling perfectly into place with tracks such as ‘She’s Lost Control’, ‘Shadowplay’ and ‘Transmission’. The second half saw the punk dialled down as Hooky made way for the more melodic sounds of New Order, orchestrating huge sing-along’s to ‘Blue Monday’, ‘True Faith’ and ‘Ceremony’. Hooky’s stage presence was captivating, from the faces that he pulled at the crowd to his humorous comments between tracks; at one point jesting that the crowd had been looking up his shorts during one of his many trips to the front of the stage. Hooky’s triumphant set came to an end with the timeless Joy Division track ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, featuring Tim Booth and Jim Glennie from James, with the former describing it to be “one of the greatest love songs ever written” – a monumental moment that those present will treasure forever. Peter Hook and the Light embark on their next UK tour later this year and by the crowd reaction on Saturday night, it’s sure to be a sell out.
James are renowned for their ever changing set lists, keeping their sets exciting and refreshing for both themselves and their fans, making it impossible for fans to guess what track they’d open with to follow on from Hooky’s superb set. Though it’s James and of course, they had no problems whatsoever, surprising the crowd with ‘Sit Down’, followed by a witty comment from Booth; “how else could we follow ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart?'” Though ‘Sit Down’ is undeniably a James anthem, they’re a band with a huge back catalogue and a lot more to offer than the greatest hits set that’s often expected from them – proving this next with the exhilarating trio of ‘Ring The Bells’, the dance fuelled ‘Curse Curse’ and ‘Catapult’ from their latest album ‘Girl at the End of the World’.
Booth’s vocals took a haunting turn as the band slowed down the pace with the poignantly beautiful ‘Five-O’, followed by the seven minute long, keyboard driven ‘Walk Like You’. Both tracks highlighted the talents of each member of the band, particularly multi-instrumentalist Saul Davies on the violin as he opened ‘Five-O’ with an extended intro and brought ‘Walk Like You’ to an instrumental frenzy. James had the crowd in the palms of their hands and the opening bars alone of their one true love song ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’ received a huge reaction, as did ‘Johnny Yen’ from their debut album ‘Stutter’. Whilst introducing ‘Johnny Yen’, Booth gave a nod to the recently released ‘Justhipper’; a compilation CD that encompasses all of James’ recordings for the Warners group across the mid-to-late 80s, including ‘Stutter’ and the bands second album, ‘Strip-Mine’
James are a band that aren’t afraid to dive into the unknown, with one of the highlights of the night being the inclusion of a new song titled ‘Trouble’, that had its live debut in Mexico earlier this year. ‘Trouble’ was followed by the gorgeous ‘Of Monsters & Heroes & Men’, where Andy Diagram’s soaring trumpet stole the spotlight, before bassist Jim Glennie led an emotive rendition of ‘Moving On’. The set came to an end with a stripped back version of ‘How Was It For You’, before ‘Hymn From a Village’ and the mind blowingly euphoric ‘Attention’ – restarted 1 minute in due to a mistake made by Booth. The band left the stage with huge smiles on their faces after a joyous singalong during (and after) ‘Sometimes’, which led to the band playing the chorus once more whilst Booth danced along with infectious enthusiasm, almost as if he was being recharged by the crowd.
A beautifully executed acoustic rendition of ‘She’s a Star’ kicked off the encore, with multi-instrumentalist Adrian Oxaal on the cello and the wonderful addition of Diagram’s trumpet towards the end, before Booth visited the barrier to engage with his audience during ‘Come Home’. ‘Nothing But Love’ ended proceedings, with the band looking awestruck at the volume of people waving their arms in unison to a track that they released just last year. James are an untouchable live band that possess a rare connection between each other and their fans, who have nothing but love for them in return.