When I was 15, my family moved from Grand Rapids, MI to a town called Plant City, FL. I was already a moody little fuck, so when you add in moving me to a tiny town in a miserably hot state, well, I was feeling emo long before the word became what it is today. Then one night while watching 120 Minutes on MTV (for the younger readers, the “M” used to stand for Music before it stood for Mediocre), “Sit Down” by James came on. At that age and that point in my life, the lyrics, though they may sound cheesy as hell on the page, meant the world to me and it was one of the first songs that brought the Madchester sound into my life. So when James came to town as openers for The Soup Dragons, I begged my parents to buy me a ticket and stood up at the very front, yelling every lyric to every song.
Fast(slow?)-forward almost two decades later to 2010. James has long since split and gotten back together after lead singer Tim Booth’s solo career didn’t do so hot, they have a new double EP out, and they’re actually touring the US once again, though this time as the headliners. As wary as I am about seeing bands I loved as a teen (the Sisters of Mercy abortion of a concert from a couple years ago is still fresh in my mind), there was no way I was going to miss the chance to hear “Sit Down” sung live just one more time.
We had to cross the state during the end of rush hour on a Tuesday to get to the show, which was at the House of Blues in Downtown Disney, and even though we made pretty good time (it was only 8p when we got there), we still missed the opener, Ed Harcourt. I was really hoping to catch him, though nobody I spoke with at the show was very impressed with his set. Someone mentioned lounge music. Oh well.
The place was full, but nobody was pushing, and there was no real crush at the front when the headliners took to the stage. The band started things off somewhat slow with “Dust Motes”, a song from their recent EP, The Morning After, released just days before the show. Frontman Tim Booth was wearing a fringed stocking cap, blue and white polo, baggy grey pants, and a blazer, looking kind of like a French sailor who just woke up late for a dinner party. Tim no longer has the fluffy blonde locks he used to shake about as he danced, but the tassels on his cap seemed to serve as proxy, wagging and shaking around as he bounced. And while time may have taken his hair, he still dances like a snake that’s angry that someone gave it arms and is trying vehemently to shake them off of his body.
While the whole show was nothing short of fantastic, there were definitely some highlights. The new stuff that they played, like “It’s Hot” and “Crazy” sounded great live. On one of their older tunes, “Out to Get You”, Saul Davies’ violin was highlighted, which lent a really cool Irish/bluegrass edge to it, working up to a fever pitch over a deep, pounding bass drum. During another favorite of mine, “Say Something”, Tim actually came down into the crowd and serenaded a random audience member. The band was clearly taken with the crowd’s hanging on their every note and worked as hard as they could to give back what they were getting off of us.
Approaching venue curfew after 15 songs, they played just a two song encore. First was the ridiculously romantic “Sometimes”, and then they announced they could do just one more song and that they were going to do something different, something that they wouldn’t be doing much more. And then they did it, they played “Sit Down”. A song I can’t even begin to imagine how tired they must be of playing, but they played it anyway and I about lost my fucking mind. The whole band even stepped to the front of the stage and sat along its edge, and at one point it was just percussion while the audience sang every word with all we could muster. Concert perfection, that moment of true shared musical experience that is the reason we drive across a state on a Tuesday night. Even more amazing, when I got a hold of a setlist I noticed that “Sit Down” wasn’t even one of the three songs listed as possible encores. I couldn’t have asked for more.
Check out more pictures from the show at www.drunkcameraguy.com