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James: So Pretty @ Club Soda

Posted by Goran / September 24, 2008

James 1.jpg

Aside from being one of the UK's most popular first names, James is also one of the island’s least rated (or underrated-est) yet currently relevant pop-rock acts of the past twenty-some-odd years. They aimed to please on Monday night at Club Soda, and as the gods of mutual gratification beheld them with generous eyes, they were bestowed with praise and pleasure in return.

Now, I must admit that I’m probably the most bad ass (MS Word recommended ‘worst ass’) of all the poutiners, as I yet again missed the openers, in this case Glasgow/London-based Unkle Bob. Although I'm a tad bummed out about it, I have a good explanation: pre drinks with Unkle Bob’s guest list pals who ought to have felt way worse than I did. They do, however, have a few decent tracks and are definitely worth a myspace ear.

James saved.jpg

A buzz of cockney lightly lined the soda air as an eager, predominantly middle-aged crowd awaited. Expecting the dude from the Laid video, I thought I had mistakenly walked into an R.E.M. show given the lead singer’s Stipe-like-ness. Though by the end of the show, I decided, in spite of general contradictions, that he is in fact more akin to a Sir Ben Kingsley. To focus on looks, however, would be obviously superficial. Balding, aging, and mildly out of style they may be, but the feeling they conveyed through splendidly crafted works of pop-rock genius was one of sustained positive energy bordering on sigur ros blissful ecstasy.

The seven-piece out of Manchester had a sound set-up as tight as a hunter’s trap, jamming with professional confidence and effortless skill. But by far their most admirable quality was their infectiously unpretentious and genuinely sincere enthusiasm. It was a treat to feast with them in the fruit of their three-decade harvest yield. Though one helping was not enough, as it had not been on fire with passionate love, James unselfishly provided the salivating crowd with a second and a third.

Their creative influence over the dominantly Coldplay-esque orientation of the UK pop rock scene becomes apparently audible by merely scanning through the delightful Best of James. Even the title track to their 11th album Hey Ma (2008) provoked a lively reaction from the audience. Introducing the song, singer Tim Booth proclaimed, “this is a song about Bush and Blair’s foreign policy.” The crowd’s potent cheer in response gave me the willies of a Republican Party convention, followed by gratitude for the mutually implicit negativity.

Track after the track, through hits like Come Home, Born of Frustration and Sit Down, James kept the mob bouncing and applauding. Keeping up with the crowd’s incessant clapping numbed my arms throughout the two filler-less encores. Surprisingly enough, the mildly emotional rendition of Laid was overshadowed immensely by a very heartfelt Sometimes. Methinks we chanted the chorus outro bit for at least 3 minutes before James conceded defeat and rocked back into it a second time. And quite literally, as I looked deep into their eyes, I swear I could see James' soul.

Photos courtesy of Knightingale



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