James may well have invented the Madchester scene – and when baggy bands like the Mondays and Northside faded into overdue obscurity, James kept on going. ...
But then again, they’d been going for years at that point anyway. And come 1997, on the back of their 750,000+ selling “Best Of” compilation, they became an arena band. 4 years later, dropped from their unsupportive label and minus the charismatic vocal acrobatics of singer and figurehead Tim Booth, their future looks bleak and dismal. That might be because they don’t have one.
Recorded at their hometown of Manchester of the last tour with Tim Booth, at the 12,000 capacity Evening News Arena, this is as good a send off as they deserve – and their first live album since 1988’s long unavailable (and highly sought after) “One Hand Clapping”. However, given the fact that everyone knew these gigs were the bands last stand, it feels more like a wake than a celebration. Its melancholy and downbeat during songs like “Say Something” and “Sometimes”, which should soar to the stars.But its honest: When the band cock up the beginning to “Out To Get You”, they keep every note in….and the singer apologises to his mom from the stage because he swore, which is endearingly inoffensive. While older songs like “Hymn From A Village” and “Johnny Yen” show they didn’t always sound so polished.
When its good, its fantastic, elegaic, uplifting – everything music should be – “Born Of Frustration”, “Tomorrow”, “She’s A Star”, the opening “Say Something” (a song which has me in tears before now when seeing them live). When its bad, its ponderous, uneven and indulgent. I could nitpick and say where the hell is “How Was It For You?”, “Destiny Calling” or the uplifting “Seven” when we get the quite frankly boring “Vervacious”?
It won’t convert anyone to James who’s not already a fan. At nearly 2 hours long is too unwieldy and occasionally erratic in its choice of songs for that…. Hardly definitive, it's a snapshot of a band at the end of its career for the sake of nostalgia, a nice souvenir for the fans of a gig. The problem is this double CD just seems so ... underwhelming. Which is a pity for a band that deserve so much better. If you’re looking for an introduction to the band, then you’re better off buying the “Best Of” first, but this is just a memento for the fans, a completists item. Thats how it ends - Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
_"Ladies and gentlemen, James have left the building...."
6Graham Reed's Score