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Review: James at Co-Op Live ‘Manc legends come home in style’

James rocked the Co-Op Arena with a boisterous performance jam-packed with classic tunes and new material

Amidst the jam-packed crowd at the Co-Op Live Arena’s excitement and energy, Tim Booth’s passion for performing is undiminished.

James’ monumental homecoming concert follows the release of Yummy, their 18th studio album, showcasing their enduring hunger for creating and performing new music, even as they celebrate over 40 years in the industry.

Remarkably, Yummy is their first number-one album in their extensive career.

Yummy by James

James at Co-Op Live
James rocking the Co-Op Live

At the album launch, Tim Booth, now 64, remarked that he hopes Yummy will challenge ageism in the music industry.

His electrifying presence, complete with crowd surfing and dynamic dancing, certainly suggests he has no plans of slowing down. I think most of us would be thrilled to move as well as him now, never mind at 64.

Legacy bands often struggle with the industry’s tendency to pigeonhole them based on their past glories.

There’s an ongoing debate that nostalgia tours, often priced at hundreds of pounds, may inhibit the growth of new artists.

Concertgoers seem hesitant to invest in discovering new acts, preferring the tried-and-true legends.

Yet, James defies this trend.

Back in their hometown, James delivered an incredible performance, mixing new songs and old, much like Elbow did at the Co-Op’s opening last month.

They are followed by Liam Gallagher tonight and next week, as hometown heroes come home to soak in the adulation (not too much sunshine) of being back in Manchester.

Post their 2007 reunion, James’ creative output rivals and perhaps surpasses their peak in the nineties.

They’re not just touring; they’re selling out arenas and still driven to produce new music rather than just revisiting past hits.

Yummy, and its beautiful songs, exemplify a band that’s creatively thriving and has something meaningful to share.

James at Co-Op Live

A dozen musicians filled the stage, swapping instruments with ease while Tim Booth captivated the audience in his usual magnetic style.

Clad in white and his furry jerkin, Booth’s spotlighted presence added a huge aura to the performance.

The show kicked off with thunderous applause for Johnny Yen from their 1986 album Stutter. This song, inspired by a character from Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, set a reflective tone with its narrative of a self-destructive artist.

Next up was Life’s A F**king Miracle from Yummy.

The song’s candid title alludes to the band’s tumultuous journey. Although the profanity makes it unsuitable for radio, it stands out on the album with its celebratory chorus and inclusive message, prompting a strong reaction from the crowd.

The song itself is one of Yummy’s many highlights though – a euphoric celebration of life and unity in the chorus’s “raise your glass, life’s a f**king miracle” and a call to be open to what life throws at you in “if we love life, life loves reciprocal.”

Ever inclusive it demands that we “celebrate, she, he, we, they, welcome sign” and is set to become a real live favourite.

You can tell from the crowd’s reaction this is going to be a classic live tune for them, with die-hards belting out those class lyrics.

Tim Booth works the crowd3

Another new track, Butterfly, demonstrated James’ versatility with its intimate vocals and acoustic build-up, climaxing with powerful backing vocals and vivid imagery of butterflies on the stage screens, adding a psychedelic touch.

They then revisited Sound from the album seven, released in 1992, a song known for its extended live renditions and improvisation. And it didn’t disappoint here.

Tim’s beautiful soaring vocals and euphoric energy are reciprocated by the crowd in turn keep the atmosphere rocking, with trilling brass driving the sound forward and keeping the crowd moving.

Better With You follows,  a poignant love song, beginning with introspective lyrics before evolving into a duet that symbolises unity and hope. Booth’s reflection on finding joy and positivity in life resonated with the themes of Yummy.

She’s a Star and the iconic Sit Down followed, with the latter turning into a massive sing-along, echoing throughout the Co-Op Arena.

Before the encores started, James launched into Sometimes (Lester Piggott), a folky rock track produced by Brian Eno.

Its steady rhythm created a contemplative atmosphere before the band launched into their encores.

What was played at the encore?

The encore featured four songs: Come Home, Beautiful Beaches, and Getting Away With It (All Messed Up).

Come Home paid homage to their Baggy and Madchester roots, getting the crowd dancing with its infectious beat and driving guitar.

Beautiful Beaches offered a serene, almost spiritual experience with its mellotron and organ, despite being a meditation of climate change and families have to get to the beach to survive forest fires when Tim Booth lived in California.

The always inevitable, but always exhilarating, Laid brought the night to a close, leaving the audience satisfied and whole.

The gig showcased why James continues to be a seminal force in the music world.

Their blend of new material and classic hits created an electric atmosphere that resonated with both longtime fans and new listeners.

Tim Booth’s magnetic stage presence, coupled with the band’s impeccable musicianship, made for an unforgettable experience.

The Co-Op Live arena, with its excellent acoustics and vibrant setting, provided the perfect backdrop for this legendary Manchester band to shine once more.

You can find out more about what’s happening at Co-Op Live by clicking here

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