Recently, music fans in Halifax were treated to two completely contrasting shows from Mancunian legends James. One in glorious, baking hot sunshine and the other, 24 hours later, under threat of being cancelled due to adverse weather conditions.
Friday’s show was a respectable and polite trawl through the vast recorded history of the band – with well over 300 songs to choose from across a 40-year career – it’s often noted that you may not get the songs you want to hear them play at any one show. If you’ve only come for Sit Down, there’s every chance you’re going to leave unhappy and unfulfilled, however, if you come for the connection with the band, the beautiful and diverse music they play you’ll leave with a fully replenished soul.
For both days, the support was Tom A. Smith and Jamie Webster. The former giving strong Sam Fender vibes and playing music that instantly connected with the audience. It’s possible we were witnessing a major star of the future here taking his initial steps in the business. Captivating and cool, and with the songs to back it up, both his sets were really enjoyable.
Jamie Webster was equally as good and equally loved by the audience. His set on Friday was a storming success, and closing with the crowd singing along to “Weekend in Paradise,” the former electrician from Liverpool left the stage on a high. Contrastingly, his show on Saturday was rudely interrupted by the inclement weather, with the sound system cutting out in the middle of a song midway through his set.
With the confusion of what was happening, Jamie concluded his set at the front of the stage with an acoustic and his voice which only the closest people in the crowd would have been able to hear. But they were all on his side, and he left to a massive round of applause.
A voice over the PA announced that the show had been paused due to the threat of lightning near the venue. So, everyone waited patiently to see whether James would even be able to play.
24 hours earlier, they had waltzed on stage and instantly captured the audience with “Johnny Yen,” “What For,” and “Waltzing Along” opening proceedings. The crowd lapped it up, and by the time “Born of Frustration” arrived, they were in full voice. James weren’t just accompanied by The Manchester Inspirational Voices Choir, but The People’s Republic of Halifax one too.
Taking the stage on Saturday they played up to the weather conditions with Tim teasing the “There’s a storm outside” opening line of “Sometimes” – promising to come back to the song later on, maybe. Touchingly they brought out Jamie Webster for the first track “Getting Away with It” giving him the recognition he’d missed out on earlier.
With the contrasting weather came contrasting vibes for each set. Friday felt more civil and calmer, whereas Saturday felt a little edgier and, after the band had been made to leave the stage due to the threat of nearby lightning, their return seemed to ramp up the overall atmosphere. Even the few songs that were repeated across both nights – like 1988’s Medieval sounded more vibrant in the bad weather. Almost as a reward for staying through the bad weather Saturday’s crowd was treated to the aforementioned “Sometimes” and a bonus of “Come Down” to close the night out.
James are a band that have soundtracked my and many others’ lives. From schooldays, first loves, the freedom of festivals, first jobs and marriages; They’ve been a constant throughout. Different songs from different times have a sense of nostalgia that takes you right back to those joyful moments in your life, and this could be seen by the number of people lost in the music and dancing with abandon throughout the night. They are far from a nostalgia act though, they have been constantly growing and inspiring for 40 years.
Truly one of our greatest bands. National treasures each and every one of them. We hope they keep their promise to come back to Halifax and do it all over again.