JAMES returned to Manchester last night with their ‘Girl At The End Of The World’ tour. Quays News entertainment reporter Natalie Rees was in the crowd…

The gig, a celebration of their 14th studio album and the namesake of the tour, allowed fans of all ages to enjoy their old favourites and a taste of something new.

The Slow Readers Club gave those who got to the Arena early something to get their teeth into. The four piece, with their distinctive Manchester sound, kicked off with ‘Start Again’, showcasing animated frontman Aaron’s moves whilst holding the mic, reminiscent of Ian Brown.

Stop Right Now’ followed, before the singer announced “We’re going to play one sensitive one”. Although slower than previous tracks, ‘Days Like This Will Break Your Heart’ proves they can change the pace but keep you interested.

The band, who have received praise from both Radio 6 and Radio X, played ‘I Saw A Ghost’ before ‘Plant The Seed’, the fourth track on their album ‘Cavalcade’ and a nod towards their Bowie influence.

Forever in your debt’ begins with a heavy drum beat, inducing clapping from the audience, before Aaron’s lonely vocals echo into an anthemic chorus.

‘Know The Day Will Come’ concluded their support set. The band will play a headline show at the O2 Ritz in November.

Talented Italian Jack Savoretti seduced the arena with his husky vocals for the second support of the night. The change of tone, which welcomed Spanish style guitar playing and Savoretti’s soulful voice, seemed a perfect accompaniment for the recent hot weather.

“Good evening Manchester, thank you for having us,” he said. Savoretti and his band opened with ‘Written in Scars’, taken from his fourth studio album released last year. ‘Fight ‘til the end’ followed, with Jack announcing that this was the first time they had played an arena, “It feels like we’ve been invited by the family, we know it’s a special place for them so thank you for having us.”

‘Catapult’ showcased the singer’s impressive vocals before he got hold of a tambourine for ‘The other side of love’. The defiant ‘Home’ finished the party, with the audience ready to welcome James.

As the lights dropped frontman Tim Booth’s presence could already be felt, with the crowd erupting into deafening cheers and applause.

The band’s triumphant return commenced with ‘Out to get you’, “We’ll start with a slow one to settle you before we fly.” Booth addressed the scratches on his neck, saying it was due to some overexcited drunken fans at the James show the previous night, “Please treat me like porcelain,” he joked.

The band proceeded to play ‘Move down south’, the ninth track off the album released in March, before urging the crowd at their homecoming gig not to move down south. Booth commanded the stage to the army of adoring James fans below, all seemingly sporting some sort of James merchandise from previous tours, highlighting the band’s longevity in the industry.

‘To My Surprise’ proved a fitting backdrop for Booth to take the performance into the crowd, surfing the first few rows of fans, before scaling the tiers during ‘Catapult’. Booth’s eccentric dance moves and endearing character continued through ‘Come Home’, a slice of classic James and a crowd favourite which had everyone on their feet.

The microphone was turned on the audience for ‘Ring the bells’ and the anthemic ‘Sometimes’ from ‘Laid’, from their Britpop birthing fifth album. ‘P.S’ finished with an eerie violin solo, before ‘Girl At The End Of The World’ and ‘B**ch’, which evoked fist pumps in the air from the crowd.

“From the sublime to the ridiculous, we’re going to play some old English folk songs,” he told the packed Arena.

Vintage favourites ‘She’s a Star’, the first single from 1997s ‘Whiplash’ and ‘Fred Astaire’ were then played. The frontman sang through a megaphone for ‘Dear John’, before again taking the show into the crowd for ‘Honest Joe’, which saw himself and the trumpet player on the stairs of the venue.

Attention’ closed the main body of the show, but the band weren’t ready to say goodbye just yet.

It may be argued that the encore was what everyone had been waiting for. ‘Sit Down’ was a unique experience, Booth appeared as if out of nowhere once again on some of the venue stairs, lit by a single spotlight. Walking back to the stage whilst singing the famous lyrics, the entire venue joined in. Adhering to his opposition to the norm and responding to the chants from the venue, the band came back for a second encore, playing ‘What For’ and ‘Tomorrow’.

James’ triumphant homecoming proves they are as relevant now as ever, and are very much at home in an arena.

By Natalie Rees

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