Gig Review by Simon Saynor with Photography by Gunnar Mallon

James performing at O2 Academy in Sheffield

I was particularly looking forward to this one. James have always been a band I’ve admired but one I’ve never really got to know better. The last time I saw them Adamski was Number One which shows just how lax I’ve been and it was high time I found out how the band had matured. (More than me I was to find out).

The Slow Reader Club at O2 Academy Sheffield

Added to this was support band, Manchester’s The Slow Readers Club, a real favourite of mine. I first saw them three years ago at The Leopard, Doncaster. Every now and then you see a band on small stage and just know they’re destined for bigger things. Slow Readers were one such band and 2016 has seen them move to the bigger stages. It’s their natural home. The focus is on Aaron’s flawless vocals as he swirls round the bands ‘indie electro doom pop’ anthems, marching on the spot as he does so. His stage mannerisms would look out of place with any other band. With Slow Readers they’re both infectious and endearing. (I Saw A Ghost came on my iPod this morning and halfway through the song I realised I was doing Aaron’s march). A friend of mine categorised them as ‘geek chic’. Cavalcade is a must have album. The Slow Readers Club are a must see band.

The Slow Reader Club at O2 Academy Sheffield

The Slow Reader Club at O2 Academy Sheffield

Twenty-six years ago it was all floppy hair, loud baggy trousers, jangly guitars and two fingers up to the establishment. James have matured musically so much since, naturally. It was remiss of me to think it would be otherwise. The indie child in me was expecting a slightly chaotic celebration. What I got was a tight band who have become a solid, well-honed unit. Consummate professionals who knew exactly what they were doing and what they were there for. Opening song, ‘Walk Like You’ seemed an odd choice. Very quiet, very laid back but it built into a thundering beast of a song and set the tone for the night. This may seem an odd criticism but it all seemed too polished for me. Too much like a group on stage doing a job. Again though this was me harking back to something that no longer exists.

James performing at O2 Academy in Sheffield

James performing at O2 Academy in Sheffield

They know exactly what songs to play and at what point to throw a ‘hit’ into the set list. Early on Tim Booth stage dived and commented ‘First time security have pushed me in to the crowd as oppose to trying to drag me out’. That was the kinda thing I was there for, I love a bit of wild abandonment.

James performing at O2 Academy in Sheffield

A 20 song set list that did cover most of their career, including 5 songs from March’s release ‘Girl At The End Of The World’ seemed to please the majority of the crowd. For me they were good without being great. Speaking to friends after it was definitely a gig that split opinions with critique raging from ‘Tame’ to ‘How amazing was that?’ Maybe it was one for the true fans. Maybe I should accept I’m not 19 anymore and should accept the fact that 26 years is a long time and, like James, become more polished and professional.

James performing at O2 Academy in SheffieldJames performing at O2 Academy in Sheffield

Or maybe I should buy a bucket hat and a Stone Roses ticket and try again.

James performing at O2 Academy in Sheffield

James performing at O2 Academy in Sheffield

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