On Friday 7th July 2017, James returned to Manchester’s Castlefield Bowl for the first time since their triumphant headline slot in 2014. Supporting James were familiar faces, The Slow Readers Club, who supported the band during their 2016 arena tour and again on a short run of dates later in the year.
Walking onstage to the crowd chanting “READERS”, the local band dived straight in with ‘Start Again’ from their latest album ‘Cavalcade’ and it was easy to see exactly why they’ve received nothing but praise regarding their live sets. The audience were captivated by front man Aaron Starkie’s powerful vocals, with arms aloft as they sang along to each and every track that the band delivered; from the emotive ‘Days Like This Will Break Your Heart’ to the mesmerising ‘Plant the Seed’. The band embark on a headline tour later this year that stops at Manchester’s hauntingly beautiful Albert Hall – be sure to see them in smaller venues whilst you still can!
Kicking off James’ headline slot was Andy Diagram, taking to the stage solo to open the set with a fanfare, using looping machines that are controlled via a mobile phone attached to the top of his trumpet – Diagram brought his trumpet wizardry to a close with the instantaneously recognisable riff from The White Stripes ‘Seven Nation Army’, that’s become associated with Jeremy Corbyn – within seconds, the “oh Jeremy Corbyn” chant had begun and it was safe to say that the crowd were more than warmed up.
The rest of the band joined Diagram on stage for ‘Walk Like You’ from their 2014 album ‘La Petite Mort’ before ‘How Was It For You’ and recent single ‘Dear John’; the first of four tracks to be played from their latest album ‘Girl at the End of the World’. Renowned for his crowd interaction, front man Tim Booth visited the barrier for his first crowd surf of the night during the exhilarating ‘Catapult’, though of course that wasn’t the only time that Booth put his trust in the crowd as he visited again during several other tracks, including ‘Getting Away With It’ and ‘Sit Down’.
James have always been a band that think of their fans, and with this in mind, they treated the crowd to a freshly written song titled ‘Busted’, followed by a change in the set list that saw them play the trumpet fuelled ‘Interrogation’ – a change described by Booth to be in “true James style.” The band boasted a strong set list that visited all areas of their career, including acoustic versions of ‘She’s A Star’ and ‘Stripmining’; the latter was written in response to 1985’s Mexican earthquake disaster and their poignant version on Friday night was dedicated to the victims of the Manchester Arena attack.
From beautiful moments such as ‘Five-O’, that saw the evenings first burst of rain during Saul Davies’ stunning violin solo, and the utterly euphoric ‘Attention’, that sees the band collaborate to create a multilayered masterpiece, to huge crowd sing-along’s during tracks such as ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Laid’, James provide it all. When ‘Sometimes’ came to an end, the crowd continued to sing, resulting in the band playing along and repeating the chorus whilst Booth lost himself in the moment, dancing, almost re-energised by the remarkable volume of the crowd.
James brought their homecoming celebrations to an end with an encore of crowd favourites that included ‘Nothing But Love’; a unifying track that saw a sea of arms swaying in sync, the synth siren riff fuelled ‘Come Home’ and ‘Laid’. James well and truly came home and whilst Booth sang the lyrics “I’m in awe of you” during ‘Of Monsters & Heroes & Men’ earlier in the evening, the bands set left a sold out Castlefield Bowl full of fans well and truly in awe of James.