James brings a mixture of the old and the new to Newmarket
Rather than just bask in the glory of mega-hits such as Sit Down, She's A Star and Laid, the Mancunian band has always strived to keep moving forward.
Indeed, the dynamic septet – who originally formed in 1982 – enjoyed one of their most successful albums to date in 2016, when Girl at the End of the World – their 14th studio effort – reached number two in the UK album charts.
They also like to vary their setlist every night, a point touched upon during the gig by charismatic frontman Tim Booth, dressed tonight in brown baggy trousers, white shirt and black jacket.
In fact, so keen are they to keep moving forward that bass player Jim Glennie told the Cambridge Independent in an interview a couple of weeks before the show that the band may not necessarily play Sit Down.
We needn’t have worried, however, as the song – a number two hit in 1991 – was featured about halfway through the set, and drew the expected euphoric reaction.
“Play it again – it’s the only one we know!” shouted a girl behind me, a very inaccurate comment, I feel, given the enthusiastic reception afforded to the beautiful acoustic rendition of She’s A Star, the funky ‘Madchester’ anthem Come Home and the bombastic Born of Frustration.
Laid, the song which closed out the ‘encore’ (“Imagine we’ve gone off stage and come back on,” said Tim ahead of the final few songs) was another winner – it’s also the band’s best known tune Stateside, having popped up on the soundtrack to the third American Pie film, American Wedding, in 2003.
Other highlights were Just Like Fred Astaire – a top 20 hit from 1999 – and the “divorce song” Dear John off Girl at the End of the World.
“In theory these types of gigs should be a disaster,” observed Tim early on, “but we did one last year and loved it. Let’s see how fickle you are and how fickle we are!”
Extremely entertaining and packed full of hits, surprises and lesser-known – but still enjoyable – tunes, this gig was anything but a disaster.