Each year, the beautiful grounds of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Kew host a week-long festival called Kew the Music. This year’s festival ran between 11-16th July and acts included Passenger, Razorlight, James, Mary J Blige and All Saints. We caught James on their Saturday night headline slot and upon entering the gates and seeing both the sights (and signs for ‘Hamper Collection’), it was apparent that it was going to be a different kind of night, but nevertheless, a very special one.
Opening the bands headline slot solo was Andy Diagram with a trumpet fanfare, looping and using effects with the assistance of a mobile phone that’s impressively attached to the top of his trumpet via a fish-slice! Diagram ensured that the crowd were well warmed up with a trumpet rendition of fan favourite ‘Johnny Yen’, from the bands debut album, ‘Stutter’. Whilst the crowd were cheering and showing their love for Diagram, he was joined on stage by the rest of the band, and it was only seconds before we were hit with the familiar intro of the atmospheric ‘Sound’. Next came the poignantly beautiful ‘Moving On’, which Tim Booth dedicated to his sister, who sadly lost her husband a few days earlier. Originally written about the deaths of his Mother and best friend, ‘Moving On’ is one of the bands most touching tracks and saw Booth deliver some of his most emotive vocals of the night, alongside the powerful and self-damning ‘Interrogation’ that followed.
‘How Was It For You’ saw Booth’s first visit to the barrier of the night, where he wittily changed the lyrics “do you really need that drink to disarm defences” to “do you really need that iPhone to disarm defences”, in response to the mass amount of phones that surrounded him as he prepared to dip into the crowd for a surf. His next bit of crowd interaction was during ‘Hymn From A Village’ and saw him go on a journey past the ‘dancing area’ in front of the stage and through the area full of people with picnics and camping chairs, before encountering a problem with his in-ear piece. Though the band were fantastic, they unfortunately battled with the sound due to strict decibel limits, with the sound desk increasing Booth’s vocals at one point after fans managed to pass a sign down to the front, alerting him of the issue.
For a band that have fourteen albums under their belt, James crafted the perfect set list for fans both old and new; peppered with hits such as ‘Come Home’, ‘Tomorrow‘ and ‘Getting Away With It’, as well as new tracks ‘Attention’ and ‘Nothing But Love’ from their latest album, ‘Girl at the End of the World’. Currently hard at work on their next album, the band bravely debuted a new track titled ‘Backwards Glances’, that they’d been working on for just a couple of days. This was followed with a sublime and slightly sped up rendition of ‘Of Monsters & Heroes & Men’, that felt like it was written to be played in such beauteous surroundings. The stunning ‘Five-O’ carried a similar vibe to ‘Of Monsters & Heroes & Men’ as Jim Glennie and Saul Davies kicked things off with bass and violin for a couple of minutes before the rest of the band came together, Booth’s vocals included.
James are a band that all collaborate to deliver something truly special and this showed throughout the entirety of the gig, especially during ‘Attention’; their favourite track to play from ‘Girl at the End of the World’. Beginning with piano, ‘Attention’ is a slow starter until keyboardist Mark Hunter leads a euphoric breakdown, before the track proceeds in a truly exhilarating manner. ‘Sometimes’ was another euphoric moment, though in a different sense as the band stopped playing at the end of the song, allowing the crowd to continue the chorus at a volume that could surely have been heard for miles, before beginning to play again.
The bands encore included ‘Getting Away With It’, ‘Come Home’, ‘Nothing But Love’ and ‘Laid’. Though ending on ‘Laid’ was a well judged choice for a festival setting, the band can (and often do) end on the catchy, unifying ‘Nothing But Love’, which saw a sea of arms holding hands – a truly remarkable thing for a band that have been around for so many years to do/have happen with a track that’s been out for less than 1 1/2 years. Though they’re not just any band, they’re James, and that speaks volumes!
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