Ross Clark 24/04/2007
I was 15 years old again.
From the synth-brass intro of Come Home to the electrifying layered vocals and harmonies that brought Sometimes to a close, I was 15 years old again. It doesn't matter what happened between those two moments, James helped to rekindle a youthful spirit within me and I liked it.
I wanted to be sitting in my best mate's garden for six weeks solid during school summer holidays smoking dope and listening to any Manchester band that word broke of in the music press.
If you'd told me there and then I had to wear moccasins I'd have smiled, nodded, and carried on dancing whilst I slipped my shoes off.
But more than just recapturing my youth, James laid to rest any fears I had of such a reunion tour spoiling my fond memories of them. Whether it was the manic nature of the overheating crowd raising the spirits of those on stage, the superb sound quality (proving that the behind the scenes team haven't lost their knack either) or the fact that James are just such consummate professionals, they really pulled an absolute blinder out of the bag.
They played tunes no-one expected but everyone wanted to hear (which shows how well they know their fans) and they played them with the vigour of a band only just setting out on their first major tour, not a band doing the final rounds to cash in on a spate of successful reforms.
Case in point was a superb rendition of Out To Get You which was accompanied by a lot of 30-somethings hugging as if this was the definitive soundtrack to falling in love.
And we weren't just treated to a recital of the album versions either.
Say Something for the evening became almost a Country ballad that Dolly Parton would have been proud of, Sit Down offered a meandering piano intro before crashing in full pelt and an acoustic version of She's a Star wouldn't have sounded out of place on a Best of MTV Unplugged special.
But it wasn't all just about adaptations of old favourites. The new material we'd heard so much about and were all worried might taint what was essentially expected to be a nostalgia-fest was wonderful; just classic James with a bit of a modern twist in the form of spiky guitars or meaty, dancy beats.
Particular stand-out new one for me was Chameleon; a "jangly, stop-start, wait, don't cheer yet, here it comes crashing in again" number, which seemed to meet with great approval from one of the best audiences I've seen any band play to.
And that support shown by the audience seemed to bounce back and forth between stage and pit, getting stronger with each reflection, because the louder the crowd got, the more Booth's voice soared; the more Booth's voice soared, the bigger the cheer; the bigger the cheer, the faster and more wildly Booth shook his body in that trademark manner, as if he were fitting there and then under the strobes, and the more he shook the more the crowd shook.
It wouldn't have surprised me to see the balcony come crashing to the floor half way through Sit Down had everyone chosen to follow Booth's instruction. He may not have the hair any more, but that's all that James appear to be without these days, and such a fact demands an awful lot of respect after so many years away.
Throughout the entire show I found myself wondering when they were going to play this one and when they were going to play that one, and whether, considering the time, they would play the other one at all, but I needn't have worried; they played everything I was within my rights to expect and a little more, and I think, though none of those soaking figures stepping out of the venue wanted to leave in fear of losing that mixed feeling of nostalgia for the James of the past and expectation for the James of the future, we all felt we had been treated to something rather special, and I'm sure it won't be the last time.
The tour continues with dates at Brixton Carling Academy on 26th and 27th April and a tour finale in their home town of Manchester at the MEN Arena on Saturday 28th, though if you don't already have tickets, you probably won't be getting in, because if this tour has proven one thing, it's that the only thing matching the dedication of James is the dedication of James' fans.