James: Drama and the unpredictable

YOU could be forgiven for thinking a James gig quite predictable – a washed up band from the 90s bang out the old hits to pay the mortgage.

And if you are a die-hard James fan then you might go home satisfied with that, but the Mancunian pop-rock band have come up with something a bit out of the ordinary for new listeners.

They are currently touring with the 22-piece Swan Orchestra and the 16-person Manchester Consort Choir in tow. The band appeared live at Nottingham’s Royal Concert Hall on Thursday for one of nine dates which end at the Royal Albert Hall.

And as charismatic lead singer Tim Booth told the audience, those expecting them to play their biggest hit Sit Down would be disappointed as the group have chosen only songs which fit well with an orchestra.

The white-painted, futuristic looking hall made for a dramatic atmosphere and a multi-coloured light display from the enormous ceiling changed with the mood of the songs.

Booth’s voice sharp, strained voice was well complimented by the sting and horn sections, and the collection of songs – ranging from sad and thoughtful to folky and playful - were more dynamic with the orchestra and choir behind them.

Indeed, tears may not have been far away for even the toughest of folk as Booth was joined at the front of the stage by two young backing singers for a version of Say Something with powerful violin strokes during the chorus.

While the sad, haunting lyrics to Hello were backed by a soaring choir.

But that is not to say the gig was all doom and gloom, as the energetic lead singer mixed up the music with some amusing antics.

After the interlude Booth came back on-stage armed with the conductor’s baton and led the orchestra through classical piece The Overture of William Tell while dancing madly around the stage.

An Evening with James with the Orchestra of the Swan and the Manchester Consort Choir ends at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday.

- Ben McVay