Saturday 19 April 2014

Review: James

The Academy, Dublin

It's nearly 20 years since James bounded on to the pop scene, a raggle taggle of flouncy-fringed upstarts in oversized jumpers. Two decades of up and down success and the occasional break-up have undoubtedly taken their toll: nowadays, front-man Tim Booth bears an ever closer resemblance to the actor Ben Kingsley, while the rest of the group look like a bunch of stoic dads who'd rather be at home watching the football.

Musically, however, they remain eternally young. Tonight's Oxegen warm-up show features one chiming, Belle and Sebastian-esque (and as yet unnamed) new song that sounds as fresh as anything they've yet recorded. And their store of classic hits has lost none of its melancholic sparkle -- when they break into 1997's 'She's A Star' early in the set the entire roomful of misty-eyed 30-something bursts into song.

Granted, Booth's front-man schtick is something of an acquired taste. Wearing trousers so wide they could pass for a skirt, he seems determined to come on like an ageing hippy who has just slipped something funny into his tea.

Still, this is a solid blast of nostalgia. Their hit 'Sit Down' used to be a millstone around their necks, but James have lately embraced the track for what it is -- silly, throwaway, deeply euphoric -- and lead the crowd through a joyous sing-along. Next, they charge through 'Sometimes', their zen anthem from the mid-90s, before segueing into the weirdly beautiful 'Laid'. By the end, it's goose-bumps all round.

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