James/The Charlatans – SSE Hydro, Glasgow 5/12/18

charliesjames

Manchester.

So much to answer for.

Home, at least spiritually, to some/most/all of the best bands ever to spring forth from the fertile soil of this sceptred isle.

Something in the water.

Tonight two of the best (the two best?) are sharing the stage.

There is no support act.

Not really.

One is simply appearing first.

And with these two it really is about appearance…there is no performance with all of its artifice.  Nope, it is all heart and soul with The Charlatans and James.

All substance.

A certain little style.

Tim Burgess strides onto the stage looking, well, looking…the same.

As ever.

As always.

Achingly cool.

He appears to be untouched by the passing of time, despite what could reasonably, and accurately, be described as a life of excess…at least for a little while.

Annoyingly, distressingly, I look like “The Portrait of Tim Burgess” let out of the attic of Burgess towers for the evening.  I wonder if he has done a deal with the Devil where he has sold my soul in exchange for his eternal youth?

I don’t mind.

Not when he and his merry band, his giddy gaggle, deliver a set that is the very definition of “crowd pleasing”.  Things kick off with “Totally Eclipsing” which was a post Different Days single.  It is as smooth as ice and burns like fire as it draws the larger than usual for a “support” act crowd into a whirlpool of dancing, swaying, cheering and chanting.  That glorious mop of hair flops and rolls as the band rock and roll.

The tone is set for the rest of the night.

A new song.

An unfamiliar song?

A song that isn’t a hit…whatever that means anymore.

The rest of the set, eleven more songs, are plucked from various corners of the remarkable back catalogue; here is a little gem from “Us and Us Only” that you had forgotten you loved, now there is a diamond, a bit of gold from “Wonderland”, a clutch of future classics from “Different Days”, a few deliciously catchy corkers from “Tellin’ Stories”, a song for the weirdos from “Between 10th and 11th” and, yes, they do play that one.

But the highlight of the set arrives at its climax as they tear through “Sproston Green” with a fire, fury, funk and ferocity that leaves me laid out on the floor gasping for air.  I know you think I’m exaggerating, but I’m not.

At this point a power cut and the cancellation of the rest of the evenings promised wonders wouldn’t have drawn so much as a muffled groan from the crowd.  The Charlatans felt like the only band in the world you could ever care about again.

Then.

James.

The gang are all present and correct.

It all looks so ordinary doesn’t it?

A drummer.

Some guitars.

A microphone.

A rogue trumpet.

But these are extraordinary times that we live in and James are the most extraordinary band of our times.

The drums are not played.

They are pounded with a blistering rage at some times and tickled with a feather light touch at others.

The guitars don’t deliver minor keys, major keys, chords or whatever the Hell it is that guitars normally give.

They sing.

Like a choir of angels falling from Heaven in a vain attempt to save us from ourselves.

The microphone isn’t really required.

Tim Booth doesn’t need amplification.

He doesn’t need to open his mouth.

He stands still.

His eyes.

His eyes.

Give it all away.

Nothing but love in them.

Even when his body flails and flings as he loses himself, loses himself, in the music he is possessed of a stillness that soothes the most troubled of souls.

He certainly soothes mine tonight.

The rogue trumpet?

One cannot help but feel that it is a rogue with a trumpet.

An imp.

A devil.

A character.

Then there is the violin and the cello and the keyboard and…and…and…so much more.

I’m saying nothing about what was played tonight.

Not that revealing the set matters when it is James because, as Tim says tonight; they make it up as they go along.  That isn’t evidence of a cavalier attitude, quite the reverse…this is a band who are so in tune with one another, with their music, with their instruments and with their audience that they can respond to whatever it is that is needed in the moment.

Seeing James live is about something more than, something deeper than, the music.

Seeing James is about experiencing the drug of healing.

Forgetting about today and hoping for tomorrow.

Touched by madness, sadness, ridiculousness?  There is a place for you here.

Worried about the times you live in?  There is comfort to be found here.

Experiencing loneliness and craving love?  Nothing but love.

Born of frustration?  Be born again.

Sometimes you may even feel like there is a beast inside your mouth that is out of control…at times like that you have two options; be frightened or embrace the fear; James can help you to embrace the fear, to step into the dark and know that you are not alone.

For long sections of the show tonight I stood alone in a crowd of thousands of people, my eyes closed, my body moving, shifting, swaying and my mouth creased into an unfamiliar shape…a smile.

I heard every note and every word.

I felt something more than that.

You could feel it too.

 

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