James at Wembley Arena
James are back on tour and joined by fellow “Madchester” icons Happy Mondays – an onstage reunion 33 years in the making, having last toured together in 1988.
The headliners, hot off the release of their 16th studio album All the Colours earlier this year, start with Zero, a melancholic statement of an opener that sets the tone for what is to come: choral anthems with an edge that can cut deep. It is clear that James, led by charismatic frontman Tim Booth, want to send a message. Zero, especially, a contemplative track about the transitory nature of life and released during the Covid-19 pandemic, feels like the offer of an outstretched hand with Booth laying bare his innermost thoughts and fears: “If you can’t relate to those feelings,” he remarks, “where have you been for the last two years?”.
Booth is a natural-born performer and much of the night balances on his presence. Backed by a troupe he likens to something between the E-Street band and the Grateful Dead “but without the long hair”, the singer commands the stage with an unrivalled frenetic energy: he is the spark that lights up this arena.
From the sonic chime of guitar strings with Isabella to the soft murmurings of I Wanna Go Home and the harmonic Wherever It Takes Us, it’s clear James is are content with the fanfare of churning out old hits: they want to be more than a dose of late 20th century nostalgia. The politically charged All the Colours of You – an album written with mind to race relations, Trump (the target of the album’s title track) and the death of George Floyd – takes centre-stage. It is a bold and brilliant outing, with a spirituality that fans have come to expect from the band. Those who have come for the classics might find that they leave with newfound favourites.
The night continues with hits such as Come Home and Sit Down, which provides some fan service as a track so timeless it would send even the most uninitiated attendee into a state of euphoric furore, before closing with Sound – a climactic finale that sees the crowd join in Booth’s vocal cry that reverberates throughout the hall.
Now four decades into their tenure, James continue to innovate and refuse to back down. Booth’s inimitable presence, with the quiet intensity of his free-flow dancing and his razor-sharp vocal cries through the megaphone, has the ability to sweep the audience up and take them anywhere he wants to go. Is it any wonder that James have found their place amongst a new generation of fans?
Photos: Cristiana Ferrauti
For further information and future events visit James’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Sit Down here: