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.

What do you think?