Tuesday, 1 November 2011

All stand up for James

I know it’s a clichéd title – forgive me!

Last night, and I don’t say this lightly, I went to probably the best musical experience of my life. 

Manchester band James with The Orchestra of the Swan and The Manchester Consort Choir at The Bridgewater Hall. With the line up and venue alone I knew it would be a whisker away from perfection. It was!

The Bridgewater Hall, Manchester.
I can’t claim to have been a massive James fan. I remember dancing to ‘Sit Down’ at a wedding reception in 1991 and at my own wedding 20 years later. And I remember seeing lead singer Tim Booth perform live at a festival in Castlefield (I think) in 2004. I never had the t-shirt with the big daisy and I’ve never owned a CD. But I’m getting one now.

Last night was just too good an opportunity to miss. I thought it would be a bit special, and my God it was. 

I have never been in a room with so much love. Love for the music, love for the band, love for the man. Love for the time in our lives that their music represents. A room full of 40-somethings transported back to gigs, pranks, first love, optimism and centre partings (with a huge pair of curtains). It was enough to make grown men cry – and it did.

First the orchestra, then the choir came to the stage, followed by the band who stood simply at the front. 

From up in the gods.

‘We’re going to take things gently – like it’s a Monday evening. Let us seduce you.’

He had me by the end of the first bar.

The Bridgewater Hall is the most acoustically perfect musical venue in the country. The combination of the orchestra, choir and band was sublime. I know I am recovering from shingles, and my nerve endings are a bit sensitive, but the tingles started along the bottom of my back and then slowly moved up my spine and around me, wrapping me up like a big warm woolly cardigan. The tingles finished in great big goose bumps which made me shiver. I didn’t know if I was hot, cold or menopausal!

I wasn’t just listening with my ears – it was exquisitely overwhelming. The orchestral arrangements of the songs were genius.

I’m sure I won’t be the first person to try and describe Tim Booth’s dancing, and I won’t be the last. ‘It’s unusual’ just doesn’t do it justice!

There he was, on a stage, illuminated by splatters of fluorescent yellow light, possessed by the music and dancing like a Swami from the Ganges fighting off a swarm of bees. Like ‘The Indian Rubber Man’ in the Famous Five, who could tie his arms and legs in knots and wriggle into really small spaces – his joints went in all the wrong directions. Then suddenly a massive burst of energy, like he’d just been tasered. It was shocking, hypnotic and perfect in equal measures.

Tim Booth is a great entertainer who just does whatever he feels like doing. If he feels like walking into the crowd, walking over the seats, hanging off the balcony or conducting the orchestra, then that’s just what he does. And it’s brilliant.

Dangling and singing.
By the end of the evening, The Bridgewater Hall was like being in your mate’s front room. Everyone was up and dancing, the orchestra were feeling funky and choir were bopping up front with the band. There were banjos, there were drums, there was a harp. Everyone on stage just had a massive party. And then there was the audience. When you have acoustics like you have at The Bridgewater Hall, the audience, unable to keep quiet became an extra band member – adding to the crescendo of noise. It was like a massive jam session.

The Bridgewater Hall, the north’s premier classical venue was rocking. Quite literally – it’s built on springs (when the Manchester bomb exploded, people in The Bridgewater were oblivious – the springs had absorbed the impact). 

As I said at the beginning, I have never been in a room with so much love. The crowd just didn't want to stop and the band seemed genuinely overwhelmed. We all knew we’d been treated to something a bit special and for that I’d like to say thank you. Last night I think we all 'came home'. It was one of those moments that made all that chemotherapy worthwhile. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.


  1. I was lucky enough to share this amazing experience and it was truly awesome! xx

  2. Well said. It was similar in Glasgow. As Saul said, "you've just turned the poshest place in Glasgow into the Barrowlands". A party and a celebration x

  3. Named after Sid James of course...

  4. T'was a most memorable night, still get shivers thinking about it!