They may have just played Coachella, but those lucky enough to get into last Sunday night's sold-out James show at Neumos had the pleasant surprise to experience, essentially, a band's fan-club gig, complete with a series of non-singles, albums that never got a chance to be performed in the country, and rare songs from up to thirty years ago.
An intimate show. An overwhelming burst of warmth.
As we responded to David Schmader's early-singles-or-nothing suggestion: instead of simplifying or normalizing over the years, Manchester's James, who began in the early '80s, expanded and experimented with each release until they became an unpredictable, complex, and beautiful force to wash over indefinably unique types of audiences around the world, drowning out fashions, the cool, and any such creationist cries of get-off-my-band's-lawn.
It all started with veteran fan-favorites like "Medieval" (1988) and, out of nowhere, "Play Dead" (1997).
Upstairs, during "Honest Joe" (1993), a man literally punched the ceiling.
Downstairs, during "Hello" (1999), a woman danced like a ballerina.
Others tried to out-obscure each other, with one person yelling for "Billy Shirts" (1986).
Throughout the two hours, James — jet-lagged, all smiles — gradually built the quiet and paranoia up to an extraordinary, blossoming climax that included a delicately escalating take on "Born Of Frustration", the most mad-house version of "Stutter" (1982) the band has ever done, and a glowing "Sometimes" (1993), which brought the building to tears.
Lead singer Tim Booth: 'I feel sorry for anyone who came to hear "Laid"'.
By any angle.
Medieval We're Going To Miss You Play Dead She's A Star Five-O Come Home Waltzing Along Space Honest Joe Hello Dream Thrum Riders Waterfall Born Of Frustration Ring The Bells Stutter Getting Away With It (All Messed Up) Sometimes Tomorrow