James show­cased their new album Girl at the End of the World at Scala, Kings Cross.

We’re hop­ing we’ll hear one or two old favourites scat­tered here and there, but this show is real­ly the launch of the new album and the first time they’ll be play­ing the mate­r­i­al in front of an audi­ence. Tim Booth comes on stage and tells us that because this is a launch gig, any­thing can hap­pen. And bang on cue, the first song crash­es to a halt and has to start again.

It’s the open­er from Girl At the End of The World, called Bitch, a pound­ing num­ber with a strong beat. This is fol­lowed by the Novem­ber 2015 sin­gle To My Sur­prise, which the entire audi­ence seems to be so famil­iar with, they’re singing along word-per­fect. Cat­a­pult sounds good on first hear­ing, fol­lowed by Move Down South – the only new num­ber that does­n’t grab me – it feels over-anthemic. As if to offer reas­sur­ance, after the song fin­ish­es, Booth acknowl­edges the dif­fi­cul­ty of lis­ten­ing to a whole album through for the first time and he recounts his expe­ri­ence of hear­ing Talk­ing Heads play­ing Remain in Light in its entire­ty six months before it was released.

Tim Booth comes on stage and tells us that because this is a launch gig, any­thing can happen.

The title song Girl at the End of the World gets a very pos­i­tive reac­tion from the crowd and it is indeed a beau­ti­ful song with that haunt­ing qual­i­ty that the band do so well. Actu­al­ly, every­thing is going down well with this audi­ence which seems to con­sist of loy­al fans pri­mar­i­ly in their 40s (and up), and every song gets a whoop­ing and encour­ag­ing round of applause.

In response, Tim and his sev­en-piece band seem relaxed and look as if they are enjoy­ing them­selves, with Tim giv­ing us plen­ty of his sin­u­ous and expres­sive dance moves – there’s the snakey fig­ure-of-eight style, and the full-on hip­py version.

James Tim Booth
Tim Booth at Beard­ed The­o­ry, 2015

Towards the end of the set, they play Noth­ing But Love – such is the con­vic­tion of Booth that this is their ‘strongest song since the 90s’,  they reprise the num­ber at the end of the show. The jury is out whether I’m in agree­ment (I’m cur­rent­ly going with To My Sur­prise) , but there are aspects of the song which ren­der it par­tic­u­lar­ly appeal­ing, I can see it going down a storm at fes­ti­vals – and it has a haunt­ing­ly beau­ti­ful trum­pet part.

As the evening draws to a close, James play Mov­ing On from La Petite Mort. The song was inspired by Tim Booth’s expe­ri­ence of con­fronting two deaths of peo­ple close to him, and is one of the band’s most emo­tion­al num­bers. The friend I’m with tonight lost a par­ent last year, and has found the song has brought com­fort, so I’m glad they play it. My per­son­al fave does­n’t make it on the set list, but I’ll for­give them as they do include the gor­geous­ly swoony Just Like Fred Astaire. 

WHO: James at Scala
WHERE: Scala, King’s Cross, London
DATE: 18 February 2016

We feel priv­i­leged to have seen this ear­ly show of the new mate­r­i­al. James are head­ing out on a major tour start­ing in May plus they are appear­ing at On Black­heath fes­ti­val in September.

The venue: I haven’t been to the Scala since see­ing one of the Finn broth­ers there back in around 2006, and I would cer­tain­ly rec­om­mend it as a good small-to-medi­um venue. Although it’s pri­mar­i­ly stand­ing, there are sev­er­al raised areas at the front and round the sides where short­er peo­ple can get an unin­ter­rupt­ed view of the stage. The place is not­ed to be a rab­bit war­ren, and find­ing the loos proved to be a bit of an Alice-in-Won­der­land expe­ri­ence, where I kept on end­ing up back in the foyer.

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