• Put your phones away and dance

    Apr 30 2007, 13:49

    Fri 27 Apr – James

    Well, James are back. They're certainly a lot older - Tim Booth looks even more like a puppet from a horror movie, with his high-voltage dancing, checked suit, bald head and evil-looking goatee - but they're better too. It's partly the euphoria of playing together again, I'm sure. But it's also that they've been joined by their holy ghost - Larry Gott, guitarist and founding member. He walked out on the band at the height of their popularity, frustrated and tired of touring, and in my opinion James were never quite the same again. But he and his friend, bass player Jim Glennie, were the nucleus of this reformation so fingers crossed it'll last.

    They open with Come Home, to a roar from the crowd. It's funkier than it used to be, due mostly to the new drum line, but something is not quite right. I realise it's the audience. Down at the front there is no sign of frantic pogoing, just a sea of mobile phones trying to catch the moment (to experience later?). Up here towards the back there is a personal space issue. No dancing allowed, it seems - don't you dare to bump into me, mate. Are we really all too cool for school? Or are we all just getting too old to act silly?

    The set is a great mixture of brand new songs (in one case read from a scrap of paper) and old. Riders, from 1988's Stripmine album, makes an appearance. Bloody hell, that song's 19 years old. When it was written, Sergeant Pepper was 19 years old or thereabouts. Better not think about it too much, my arthritis will start playing up. The anthems are mostly present - Sit Down, Laid, Sometimes, with only How Was It For You? conspicuously absent. Apparently, they'll tht for the following night at their home gig in Manchester. Grrr. Slower numbers like Out To Get You are a big hit, and I find myself unexpectedly teary-eyed. They really wrote some great songs, they really did. Wow.

    The improvisation that made them so electrifying back in the day is not really firing yet. They've only being playing together for a few weeks, to be fair, and I'm sure it will come together pretty quickly. The new songs bode really well for the future - Upside Downside is great, and one of the others is really aggressive and crackly and spontaneous rebellions of dancing break out.

    The crowd are loosening up a little and Tim makes another crack about London audiences being too cool - "shouldn't you be dancing or something?". Hmm.

    The crowd, for all their faults, make a hell of a racket at the end of the last few songs, and the band are visibly ecstatic when the lights go up. The first encore begins with Gold Mother, which none of the audience near me seems to know, but it's a cracking performance, looping and weird as ever, helped along by enthusiastic dancers plucked from the crush.

    All too soon, it's time to leave, back to our grown-up jobs and responsibilities. But as Larry stands their grinning at the screaming crowd I don't think he can quite believe his good fortune. Two weeks ago he was a struggling late-40's furniture designer, now he's a rock god again and I feel 18. If only everybody had stopped acting their age, it would have been perfect.