A reformation about much more than a Couple of classics

It’s almost a year since James played Brixton Academy on the comeback tour in early 2008. With festival dates at V and T in the Park giving thousands more the chance to enjoy a spot of nostalgia, now the band have a new album out, and in the top ten, the lap of honour is well and truly completed: back to the old band routine.

Another tour is in full swing, with this move from South to West London and the Shepherd’s Bush Empire just as packed out as the Brixton gig was.

The much-loved set opener ‘Born of Frustration’ got the crowd’s vocal chords loosened up nicely, with ‘Waltzing Along’ also getting the big response you’d expect. From here on in, it was a chance for those who’ve already picked up the new album to see how it fairs live, and those who haven’t had the opportunity to try before they may or may not buy. There was plenty of ‘Hey Ma’ tracks on show tonight, and it was clear that a substantial amount of the crowd would have been happy if this had been a greatest hits tour again. That’s not to knock the new material in anyway, for this album appears to be as solid a James release as fans could have hoped for (you’re never quite sure how good a comeback album really will be until you hear it).

‘Oh My Heart’ and ‘Boom Boom’ received relatively passive responses, with the fact the crowd could latch on to ‘Hey Ma’ as a single meaning it got a decent reaction.

The inclusion of early set hits ‘Ring My Bell’ and ‘Come Home’ did get great reactions though, as you’d expect, with Tim Booth swapping the stage for standing on the bar during the latter. We also got an outing for ‘Honest Joe’, a track that shows off their early nineties club side better than any other, and the much-loved and emotive ‘Out to Get You’: always a big moment in any James setlist.

The two new tracks that really stood out were the powerhouse album closer ‘I Wanna Go Hone’, which starts out as a ballad, but builds to a mighty rock conclusion and already has an air of being a cornerstone of the live show for years. ‘Waterfall’ is an obvious choice for a single (which is just as well since it’s the follow up to ‘Hey Ma’) and has that flag waving anthem quality reminiscent of ‘Ashes’ by Embrace. Given that Sky Sports are usually on the ball with music, it wouldn’t surprise me if someone already has this track filed under ‘music to put goal montages to.

There were a few quieter moments during the middle of the set, which seemed to lose the interest of plenty, London gets a raw deal from bands saying the crowds are worse than anywhere else in the UK, but there was much gossiping going on giving fuel to that accusation. Inevitably though the appearance of the classics jolted the masses back into life, first ‘She’s A Star’, then the commercially overlooked ‘Sound’, which makes a welcome return to the setlist on this tour having been left out during the glory run of 2007. This track generated the biggest reaction of the night, the band milking every last ounce of appreciation out of the fans by stringing this one out long after you’d expect it to finish. This led into main set closer ‘Tomorrow’, another guaranteed winner.

They returned for ‘Johnny Yen’, ‘Upside’ and ‘Sometimes’. Having taken some warming up at times, the crowd gave James the kind of send off those who have seen Kasabian at festivals will be familiar with. The Chorus line for ‘Sometimes’ belted out for several minutes after the song’s end.

The sound at the Shepherds Bush Empire isn’t as great as other venues in London and that was one of the downsides of this gig. The band themselves though are on fine form right now, clearly loving being back together, flying in the face of anyone who thinks this is just a chance to make a quick buck while the live music scene is red hot. Let’s be honest, if James were simply riding on the wave of the classics, they wouldn’t have left ‘Sit Down’ out of the setlist for this tour, and ‘Laid’ wouldn’t be making occasional appearances. Neither were played tonight, and although to highlight songs left out could be considered as overlooking those which were played (James are of course about so much more than the few songs hammered to death by mainstream radio), it’s worth mentioning to show the band’s intent to showcase the new material, and the pride they have in their back catalogue.