James – Getting Away With It…Live DVD
It’s been a while since I last wrote about James. I can categorically say that out of the millions or so bands that I’ve heard over the years, this remains my favourite band. They were born at the beginning of the great Madchester era which saw bands such as the Inspiral Carpets (Noel Gallagher was a roadie), the Happy Mondays, The Charlatans, The Stone Roses, Oasis, and The Verve form and crowd the British music charts. Of course there were many others but the influence that these bands exerted on the subsequent music scene is still being felt.
The Manchester era is defined by a jingly-jangly guitar and the blend of alternative rock with the groove of disco, dance or funk. James is a great example of this sound with such songs as Laid (a popular song on college radio and their best known song on this side of the pond), God Only Knows and Come Home infecting your body with their irrestibley catchy melodies. And these three songs are shown to their best on this DVD. It was recorded at the Manchester Evening News arena on December 7, 2001, the last time they would play their hometown for six years, having announced that Tim Booth had decided to leave to pursue other ventures.
There is no doubt that James is a great live band, although I have managed to miss them every time they’ve come to town. I don’t know how I managed that but I did. I even missed their last Toronto appearance a couple of years ago and have been kicking myself ever since. Anyway. This DVD shows a band still in their prime and still passionate about their music and their fans. Booth displays astonishing energy throughout, never letting up on his the twisted distortion he calls “dance”. And his voice is as strong and pure, as flexible and fresh at the end of this concert as it was at the beginning. The only way I could hit the notes that he does effortlessly is if someone shot a nail in my foot.
Getting Away With It…Live starts off with a James favourite, Say Something and ends some 165 minutes later with fan favourite, Sit Down. In between are some of the best songs off the bands’ eleven albums. Songs such as Sometimes, Protect Me, Sound and Top Of The World benefit from the live recording and watching Adrian Oxaal, lead guitarist, launch into a fabulous guitar solo on God Only Knows makes you thankful that it was caught on tape. This DVD has an intimacy that is lost on many concert recordings. Out To Get You, Protect Me, Top Of The World make you feel like you’ve entered into some secret inner sanctuary and that James is playing just for you and when Jim Glennie (bass) and Saul Davies (guitars, violin, vocals) share an intimate duet during Sound you feel like an intruder. It is a stirring moment that hasn’t been equalled in any of the other concert recordings I have, in fact, this is some of the best concert footage I’ve seen. The camera angles are non-intrusive and yet manage to capture all the musicians individually and in a group. There is no weird panning in and out and no weird tilting camera angles. It’s straightforward filming. Kind of like the band, simple yet complex enough to keep you interested.
This concert wasn’t without it’s flaws, about halfway through Davies experiences an equipment failure but it is resolved and the band carries on. This in no way diminishes the sound or performance quality of this DVD and the fact that some of the problem was caught on tape is refreshing and comical. The sound is crystal clear and very clean, the instruments come through clearly, which is important when dealing with the sheer number of musicians and instruments on stage at any given time. You hear Andy Diagrams’ trumpet cutting through the sheer volume of the three, sometimes four, guitarists and you can hear Canadian Michael Kulas’ (he has three solo albums) backing vocals supporting and complimenting Booth’s.
James reformed in 2007 and has since released a couple of EP’s, The Night Before in April this year and The Morning After due out in August, and one studio album, Hey, Ma!. The band announced on their website, MySpace, and Facebook pages that they will be playing Mexico in the fall and hopefully this will include some dates here (crosses fingers), although there is no mention of that yet. You can buy all of James music and this DVD from Amazon. You can buy the complete James’ discography from their website, Amazon or iTunes.