When I read that James would be touring this spring, that the lineup was their awesomest one, and that their first stop would be Vancouver, I bought my ticket. $32.50 for a James concert? How is that not a deal?!?
The last time I saw them was a magical concert in the Commodore circa the Laid album (1992-ish). That concert simply astounded me, it was so enjoyable. The band’s recordings reached deep into me around that time and I was enthralled in their magic.
This time around things are different. It was Easter evening so I knew a late night was going to hurt. I’m some number of decades older, as are they. My tolerance for concert go-ers in Vancouver is much, much, much lower. I was slightly concerned, but thought the band would be worth it. That Tim Booth fellow holds a special place in my musical heart.
I’m thrilled to say that the concert did not disappoint. Tim mentioned during the concert that this was the first time they had played a live gig in 5 or 6 years together, and that some of these songs hadn’t been played live in 15 years. There were some technical snafus like dead mics and volume problems with instruments, but the band played on like pros. Tim in particular adopts a completely zen-like persona on stage – nothing fazes the guy. The sound was a little fuzzy so I lost a lot of the more subtle sounds like the trumpet and strings, but the bass was nice and heavy, making my chest vibrate warmly as the band started into the first song.
I arrived around 7:05 (doors opened at 7 and I like to be on time). I knew I had some standing around to do, so I strolled around the mostly-empty Commodore figuring out if any of the seats offered a good enough view. There were some 15 or so people already lined up at the front of the stage so I knew I wouldn’t get front row anyways, so I looked around. I sat down in a shady corner and kicked myself – why sit back? This was a James concert – go for the stage! So I strolled up to the stage and settled into second row. Happily too I might add – the people in front of me came to my chest height meaning I had a mostly-unobstructed view of the stage.
Over the next hour and a half a few more people started to crowd up behind me. The opening act was a lady who called herself Elizaveta. This was her first Canadian show and she marched forward bravely. Just her operatic voice and her keyboard. It was neat to listen so close up and a couple of her songs were downright delightful, but I did not venture back to the merch table to pick up her wares after her set. I didn’t want to lose my place at the stage.
She finished up around 9, and by 9:30 there were a lot more people crowding up behind me. James came on at 9:30-ish and played a fantastic set of songs. Here’s the set list as I heard it:
- Dream Thrum
- Play Dead
- Say Something
- Waltzing Along
- We’re Going to Miss You
- Born of Frustration
- I Wanna Go Home
- She’s a Star
- Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
- Ring the Bells
- Intermission 1
- America (I believe, embedded above)
- Intermission 2
Some way into the 3rd or 4th song I started to hear a lot of grumbling behind me about me being so tall. Yes, I heard the “grumbling” over and above the sound of the music emanating from the speakers 15 feet away. Eventually the complainers had the gumption to shake my shoulder and ask to go in front of me. She was short enough and damnit if I couldn’t use the good karma, so her and her friend went in front of me. The other tall fellow next to me called me a sucker. All right maybe, but that was my good deed for the day. A few songs later Tim Booth strolled out to the crowd and sang right in front of us, shaking hands and all that, including the outstretched hand of the girl now in front of me. She turned around and thanked me, and thanked me, and thanked me. OK, that was good then.
Then a whole lot of people decided that each song was their favourite and that they needed to be in the front for it. And they also decided it was unfair that the tall people were in front of them. There was a lot of pushing for the rest of the show. It took away from the experience somewhat, but I tried to zen-out like Tim Booth and focus on the music. I succeeded for the most part. It was hard though listening to the yahoos behind me singing out of key. Let the pro’s sing them songs already! It was doubly hard when someone put their shoulder into my back and lifted me on top of the people in front of me. At least he got to listen blissfully to his favourite song while I apologized to 4 or 5 people and tried to put my feet back on the ground. After the song he melted back into the crowd. I like to think that Tim Booth caught my eye just then, recognizing my fellow zen attitude, and nodded his head in thanks for not starting something ugly. Might have been just me, might not.
So to summarize:
@wearejames Great show full of special moments -thank you!
@wearejames-crowd If you want to stand in front of the tall people, get to the stage before them. I stood for 3 hours to get that spot, how long were you waiting? Own it, stop complaining.
I came away totally satisfied and ready to take on Easter evening. Sadly there was no James merch for sale so I left with my memories and a short video of each song they played (to help me build the playlist). Great evening, in spite of the losers in the crowd.