James at Kenwood House
Heritage Live, one of the oldest music events in the UK, comes back after its 2021 edition had to be cancelled shortly before going ahead. Kenwood House is a unique, picturesque location, with a capacity of barely 10,000 – something between a private garden show and a local festival.
James know how to please their fans. They open with Johnny Yen from their 1986 debut Stutter, before taking Kenwood House on a ride with Isabella, which begins as an eerie, whispered rock piece before turning into a feel-good stadium anthem.
The first sing-along lands with Say Something, from 1993 masterpiece Laid, and singer Tim Booth reaches the front row of the crowd to perform it in proper festival mode.
Covid lockdown-inspired and upbeat All the Colours of You is very well received – written from a very American perspective, referencing to “Disunited Sates” and the Ku Klux Klan. The finale is epic, thanks to the infectious, obsessive synth riff, and he extended outro mash-up with Many Faces would have been perfect for a late-night Glasto tent. “There’s only one human race, many faces, everybody belong here,” sing Booth in the name of inclusivity.
Just before the encore the band pull out the “big guns”: James bring on a heartfelt rendition of Ring the Bells, followed by their most iconic song, Sit Down, from 1990’s Gold Mother.
The hits don’t stop, and the Mancunian band close the set with slow-burner Getting Away with It (All Messed Up). It’s their most complex work, a story of redemption told with musically destabilising sounds that keep listeners on the edge whilst delivering uplifting hooks. Bless Brian Eno for producing this.
The encore begins with Beautiful Beaches, an Arcade Fire-esque indie rock crowd-pleaser, from their impressive 2021 record, All the Colours of You. It really is one of many signs that James are still making music that matters. The show comes to an end with a profoundly moving, life-affirming performance of the poetic Sometimes. As the acoustic chord progression goes on, lyrics resound, loud: “Sometimes when I look deep in your eyes I can see your soul.”
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
For further information and future events visit James’s website here.
Watch the video for the single Sit Down here: