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James - O2 Academy Brixton, London - November 21 2014 (Live Review)

Tuesday, 25 November 2014 Written by Graeme Marsh

Manchester’s favourite septet, James, returned earlier this year with their 13th studio album, ‘La Petite Mort’, and, as the title suggests, it was a collection inspired by death following a couple of traumatic years for singer Tim Booth. But at the O2 Academy Brixton, for their second London show in a week, the band were undeniably vital and alive.

Following a brief set to remind everyone just how good they were, Starsailor made way for the magnificent seven as they launched unapologetically into the exhilarating Sound, with Andy Diagram’s trumpet popping up here, there and everywhere.

The new album was well represented. Walk Like You continued things in a similar fashion, sitting seamlessly among the classics with Saul Davies’ fiddle taking centre stage before Booth surfed the crowd for Just Like Fred Astaire.

Curse Curse, Moving On and Interrogation made stunning contributions while another recent effort – Gone Baby Gone – was given special treatment, with dancing dads and zealous youths joining the band on stage for a touch of mass euphoria.

An early setlist appearance for old favourite Laid lit the touchpaper again before the extreme past was revisited, with some of the band’s first recordings getting an airing. Jam J, Johnny Yen, What’s The World and Hymn From A Village were all given a dusting off after Booth asked the audience for total silence in order to play a particular song that could only be performed with such a backdrop. That song, however, will remain a mystery as, rather obviously, total silence in a room full of pissed revellers was not about to happen.

After the unexpected appearance of Vervaceous, from 1999’s ‘Millionaires’, an excellent rendition of Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) saw Booth being passed along the top of the crowd once again, before the familiar keyboard intro of Come Home, from ‘Gold Mother’, delighted the assembled throng.

An encore found Diagram spreading his brass notes far and wide over the classic Born Of Frustration, before a lengthy version of the thrilling Sometimes completed the set. ‘La Petite Mort’ may have suffered from a little over production but the same songs, coupled with cherry picked gems from a huge back catalogue, fared far better live, proving that James remain as vibrant and compelling as ever.

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