Post image for James, Wonder Ballroom, Portland OR

James, Wonder Ballroom, Portland OR

October 9, 2010

Showdate: October 8th, 2010

We saw the band eating at Toro Bravo before the show. Smart guys.

James. Special band for my wife and I. Very excited to see this show. We last saw them around 1996 at the long gone La Luna. Hitting the Wonder tonight. Show is packed. Surprising to me. Show possibly went clean for walk up sales or was damn close. Or the promoter papered it. Let’s be optimistic. Portland is representing lately in live show attendance.

Crowd is very social and polite. Very middle aged and noticeably gay. If you are a single dude with game, a James show seems like a good place to hang. Especially if you are bisexual. Target rich.

Lights drop. And the sound of a trumpet can be heard. Everyone is looking at the stage waiting for the band to come in. And waiting. Annnnnnnd waiting. As the crowd starts turning to the back, I spot Andy Diagram playing the opening to “Sit Down Next To Me”. The other instruments and vocal kick in with the band in the middle of the floor. Tim Booth climbs up on the stairwell wall and sings to an enthusiastic and, again, polite (and not sitting, thank God) crowd.

Here’s your setlist:
(Set Time: 2 hours. 10:00pm to 12:00a.m.)
Sit Down Next To Me
??Seven (Thanks James!)
Ring The Bells
Dust Motes
Tell Her I Said So
It’s Hot
Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)
She’s A Star
Jam J
I Wanna Go Home
Top Of The World
Out To Get You
Say Something

The crowd and James get comfortable with each other. 7 musicians on stage and the sound is very good. During “Ring The Bells”, Tim starts dancing and the energy noticeably changes. As the song ends, the crowd sustains a long applause and cheer session. Tim Booth (vocals) looked visibly pleased. “Now we are really going to have to be fucking good.”

After “Dust Motes”, Tim strips down to a shirt that says SAFE SEX FOREVER and makes him look more muscular and tatooed. Similar to Bono’s stage outfit on the Pop Mart tour. We eventually see this from the rail. Michelle finds her way to the stage. Again. Damn! Three times in a row when rocking a GA floor. For someone so polite, that is pretty raw. Respect.

James was formed in 1982. The current lineup solidified around 1989. Given that experience, you would expect the live show to be solid. And it is. A very good mix of quality musicianship and showmanship. Tim and Andy handle most of the crowd interaction. Tim’s talking here and there and dancing in his inimitable style. Andy encouraging everyone by singing lyrics off mic at the lip of the stage.

At the start of “Getting Away With It”, the crowd was singing the opening verses before Tim overpowered it. The crowd was truly great for this show. The distorted guitar on “Jam J” perked up my ears but was somewhat scarred by a really low vocal volume. “Jam J” definitely brought the goods and was one of the set’s hard rocking highlights. Wish the vocals were up higher. Boo! Pretty nitpicky in the scheme of a 120 minute show, though.

The songs after “Jam J” are fairly downtempo and the set settles mainly into musicianship until “Stutter”. The song is introduced as one of the first songs they wrote. And would become the highlight of the night for me. The early material of James is certainly less. Poppy. More percussion heavy. If you have an open mind for this kind of shit? Fucking fantastic. The bass and added percussion laid together tonight was so sweet. Combined with manic guitar work? Awesomeness Overload. Here’s a clip from many years ago. The vocals are smoother now. Would have loved to see “Stutter” back in the day. Like this:

The fire keeps burning. “Tomorrow” is next. Tim introduces the song “We don’t want to become a nostalgic pop band, heaven forbid.” With almost the entire band working the crowd from the lip of the stage.

The energy is noticeably different during cuts from Laid. Definitely the songs that the crowd was most into. However, the newer songs were greeted warmly as well. Again, I’ll say it. Good, good crowd. No bullshit. No attitude. After “Tomorrow” the crowd cheered and Tim let it slowly build until the crowd was stomping and cheering. Loud! With the same vigor as it would demanding an encore. Tim just stood center stage. Slowly nodding with a half grin on his face. “Laid” kicks in and all the women around me start dancing and buffeting me around.

Having escaped the mini estrogen mosh pit, I look at the crowd and it looks like a bunch of jumping beans. Just what you’d expect from one of my favorite charting 90′s pop songs. Damnit! Good crowd!

For all the holdouts waiting for the Laid tracks? They came in a wave during the four song encore. “Out To Get You” and “Say Something” bookend “Heavens”. 19 songs in and the crowd is hanging tough. The final reward is “Sometimes”. Very special song to Michelle and I. Nighttime rainstorm at Endfest. Cold. Huddled in a blanket.

Come on thunder,
Come on thunder

And that is the thing with certain bands, right? You latch onto them sometimes at a certain career point. Even if it isn’t necessarily the act’s best era. It is yours. And that’s Laid to me. The crowd is going out in style. Singing

Sometimes, when I look deep in your eyes, I swear I can see your soul

Over and over. At least 20 times. Before the band takes it home. Speaking of…I’m ready for home. Got our money’s worth. So did the band judging from the merch table line. On a night like this, it is hard to have many complaints. If you have an album you positively love like Whiplash or James, maybe tonight wouldn’t be your deal. Hard to imagine, though. This is my third time seeing James and I would see them three more. And then some. Just one of those bands if you dig their music the live show won’t disappoint. Not a night of ravaging my eardrums, sleep pattern, or liver. Just solid fun.

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