James & The Slow Readers Club, Castlefield Bowl, Manchester

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The Slow Readers Club Join James at Castlefield Bowl for a night of total absorption.

Having Played the Castlefield only 3 years ago, it was somewhat a coming home for tonight’s host James.

Judging by the buzz that has been emanating from the Manchester music scene over the last few weeks for this gig, even the dark grey skies and the threat of rain are not going to stop the party.

There were two support acts this evening, first up David Keenan, who took the boat over from Ireland to settle in Liverpool, where he now plies his trade. It’s never easy standing in front of a crowd on a big stage, in what is becoming one of Manchester’s iconic live venues, Guitar in hand and only your vocal prowess to back you up. Maybe it must do with my Irish heritage, but I felt an immediate connection with Keenan, there is something about carefully crafted lyrics, underpinned by structured melody that draws you in.

Keenan’s voice is so precise and on point, an air of confidence not only in how he performs, more importantly how he engaged the crowd, not easy with such a partisan audience. For me Keenan’s latest single “Cobwebs” along with “Nazereth House” were stand out moments, dare I compare the writing to a certain “Christy Moore”, with the vocal structure of the wonderful “Mary Coughlan”. For me it always pays off to get in and see the support acts, all credit to the team who gave this young 23-year-old the opportunity to hold centre stage.

The Slow Readers Club, are the evenings main support act, what an eventful year the guys have had. Is it any coincidence that when James last played here, the support band was The Blossoms, who are due to headline tomorrow, Saturday 8th. There has been a moment of support building up behind the Readers. As the band take to the stage to a chorus of Fans shouting “Readers, Readers, Readers”, they take no time in Launching into “Start Again”, “Sirens” and the powerful “one More Minute”.

It has not been any coincidence that The SRC have gone from strength to strength. As Aaron tells the crowd, many who have come to see the Readers,” we owe James a great debt of gratitude”, not only for giving them an opportunity, 12 major gigs supporting James around the country, culminating in playing one of Europe’s premier venues, the Manchester Arena. “We have to thank them for their support, and Guidance, we are where we are because of James”.

I can relate to that; however, may I just add, The SRC did get a chance, one they took with both hands. “Days like this will break your heart”, sees the Readers easing into full flow, “Block out the sun” have the supporters in fine voice. “Plant the seed” and the foot stomping “Feet on Fire “keeps the atmosphere building. As Aaron addressed the crowd “This is where it all began” as the band launch into “I saw a Ghost”, Before the final song of the set “Know the day will come”. The band have developed a real stage presence, one that allows them to effortlessly deliver a set that is setting the foundation of classic songs for a few years to come, with their own headline tour later this year and the promise of new material, are The SRC paving the way for maybe headlineing their own Castlefield Bowl show I, in the not too distant future?

Its getting dark, its grey, its beginning to rain, hey this is Manchester, we do rain, more importantly we do live music in the rain, as Andy Diagram Trumpet player wanders on stage, working a series of notes into a layered loop, of mini wall of sound, arms aloft as he heralds the rest of the band to join him on stage. “Walk like you”, is the opening gambit, warmly accepted by a crowd of 8000 people who have come to feel the love with James. One of the cast iron things you get with James as a live act, is they love to interact with the crowd, and as the 3rd song “Catapult” from their latest album, “Girl”, at the end of the world”, sees Tim Booth in the first of his forays into the crowd, standing tall on the barrier, before gently dropping down to be all too briefly carried along by the crowd, before he pulls himself back into the pit and bounding up on stage.

Booth tells the audience “I really do want to come and see you, so put your Fuckin mobile phones down as one-handed people carrying me, doesn’t exactly instil any confidence in me”. As with James concerts, things tend to ebb and flow, one minute you are listening to the heartbreak of being dumped “Dear John” as well as the poignant “5-0”. Next you are dragged into “Getting away with it (all messed up)”, straight into what has become one of the anthems the fans come to expect “Sometimes”, unleashes 8.000 voices the unstoppable bouncing on the spot, there is no doubt that the crowd are in control of this one, the band give way to the crowd singing as Booth takes out his ear piece to savour, the fan euphoria, before the band come back in and the song finishes with a rousing finale to the song. As is the James way the Old sits alongside the new, “Busted” is aired for the masses, without doubt a future crowd pleaser.

Having attended a fair few James gigs over the years their ability to draw in a crowd as they perform is a joy to behold, I don’t think I have ever encountered a band who can layer up a song is such intricate layers that drag you some place new. “interrogation & Born of frustration”, have the masses singing along. When a band with a back catalogue so full of wonderful tunes decide to drop the pace as everyone is warming up, you know you have a band who live in their own skin, and dance to their own tune, as Jim and Tim strip things back for “Of Mosters and heroes and Men”, gets a rare airing, “Sit Down” emanates around the arena as does Tim, one minute stood on the pit barrier next face down with the crowd, as everyone sings along to what probably is James best known song.

“nothing but Love” off the latest album, “Come home ” all to quickly bring the nights proceedings near to the end, but not before the final song “Laid”, judging by the amount of phones stuck up in the air we were fortunate not to have planes trying to land on stage, that pleasure was afforded to a few fans who were brought up on stage to finish off the night with a sing along and dance on the stage. All part of James keeping it in the family.

James no doubt has enough music in the catalogue, to do a greatest hits set, that however is not the James way, James have and always been a band in progress, always working, always producing, always giving people an opportunity to go forward. To put it in simple terms, JAMES are the essence of live music and performance.


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