Playing to a sold-out Academy James may open the show with -Johnny Yen’ but the crowd reaction is already one worthy of an encore. The audience are singing along word for word from the second line, ‘Poor old Johnny Yen set himself on fire again’ and James have returned to take their rightful place in the audience’s affections.
With some rotating members, James remain a seven-piece band. Among them there is Andy Diagram, wandering the stage playing trumpet while multi-instrumentalist Larry Gott plays guitar, violin and keyboard.
Then we have Tim Booth. Tim Booth is wired. Like a puppet on a string his spastic dance moves defy gravity. Plunging to the floor and rising again breathlessly, he’s a commanding force of energy. If you haven’t seen Booth for a few years, you shouldn’t expect the floppy haired rogue of the Strip-mine era. These days he more resembles a slimmed down Bronson, shiny head with a moustache, his look is softened by baggy tartan troos and a flancey shirt.
Tonight James split the show between timeless anthems and their walloping newer material off last years’ Hey Ma album. Though these tunes are equally persuasive in concert there’s a definite shift in response for hits such as -Ring The Bells’ and -Getting Away With It’, -She’s a Star’ and -Tomorrow’ are rousingly affirmative classics. As -Sit Down’ kicks off Tim is holding his head. Maybe he too finds their biggest hit irritating. For many this song may conjure images of gate-crashing 21st’s and sitting on dirty pub floors. Loving it, the crowd take the first verse themselves before Tim joins in.
But it’s the set closer that is a true representation of the band, -Laid’ with its galloping rhythms and chiming major chords it sets the room on fire. As the lights go up the band leave to rapturous applause and roars of delight. Always optimistic and uptempo, James make some charming festival music. James were at their peak in the early 90’s so the fan base may not be a reflection what they should expect when they play Oxegen this weekend. Tonight’s punters don’t look like the welly-wearing type but for anyone making the trip to Punchestown an hour with these guys would a fine way to kick off the festivities.
James are playing Oxegen’s Main Stage on Friday at 16.35pm.