'A massive celebration': Indie favourites James set to rock Kenwood
- Credit: Nathan Whittaker
It's been delayed and postponed, but indie rockers James are finally set to take to the stage at Kenwood House this month.
With a deserved reputation as one of the best live acts in the business, the Mancunians plan to rock the Hampstead crowds with tracks from their 17th album All The Colours of You, as well as foot-stompers Sit Down, Laid and She's a Star.
And with support from Feeder, Maximo Park, Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, and The Sherlocks, the August 20 gig has the makings of a mini-festival with organisers not checking on the Covid status of fans, but actively encouraging a lateral flow test 24 hours in advance, and getting jabbed as soon as possible.
Frontman Tim Booth said: “Right now James are in a fully tested Covid bubble rehearsing for this concert. You never really value some things until you’ve lost them - so to be playing together in a room, coming to play to an audience - we are re-appreciating in a deep way. This will be a massive celebration. Let's party!”
They may have hit their commercial peak during the '90s Madchester era, but the band mark an eventful four decades next year, with splits, changing line-ups and record deals with Factory, Rough Trade and Decca under their belt, alongside an impressive roster of acts they have hit the road with from The Smiths, New Order and The Stone Roses to Radiohead.
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LA-based Booth wrote much of the new album during lockdown. Their last tour had seen them play 86 dates in 14 countries so at first he didn't miss performing live.
"We needed a break, and to finish our album," he says.
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But as the weeks wore on with no money coming in, the trained mediation therapist started running "cathartic movement workshops" alongside his dance teacher partner. And with Covid, California wildfires, and Trump, there was no shortage of either collective anxiety, or material for Booth's lyrics.
"I find it easier to write when there are emotional things going on," he confesses. "If the temperature is hot there is a lot of material. A few songs tackle it directly, while others you can feel it in the background. It's hard for people in England to fully understand the danger here and the weapons. The attempted coup at the Capitol looked comical but if they had caught Pelosi or Pence I suspect someone might have died."
Booth and his nine-piece band are vitally aware that "people are coming out of a traumatic time and will need an uplift".
"The best of the new songs will work really well live and while we don't always play the hits, this year may be different," he promises.
James now includes two women who he says have "transformed these grumpy old men and brought a wonderful balance".
"There's nothing more exciting than having a great album in your back pocket and wanting to show it to people. After lockdown people really appreciate being with others. We are such social beings, after not being able to hug there is a real trauma to be got through."
The perfect antidote could be Sit Down, which has become an anthem of support for the lonely and stigmatised. Booth explains that it sprang from suffering from liver disease in his youth.
"My immune system was shot and I spent my childhood believing I was mad and convinced I would end up in a psychiatric hospital. I did feel incredibly isolated and scared and that song encapsulates some of that."
These days he uses mediation to take him others into "altered trance states" and has put the rock and roll excesses of the past behind him.
"I have lived my health backwards," he grins. "It's got better as I have got older."
And acrimony with the band is also behind him.
"I am so lucky to be in this incredible collective of musicians which turns me on creatively. We follow our path as individuals and as a group. At certain stages we have been an incredibly dysfunctional family, but we've always been so in love with what we did and we are now in a beautiful space. The last few years have been incredibly harmonious. I love being in this band."
As for the lure of playing live, Booth has "never seen being in a band as showbusiness."
"For me it's that wanting to connect, to express things. To make people feel less alone and make me feel less alone."
Visit https://www.heritagelive.net/ for tickets.