It’s a week to the day since one of the most eagerly anticipated gigs of 2021 finally took place in Manchester. James were joined by special guests Happy Mondays for a homecoming show at the AO Arena, six months on from the release of their critically acclaimed 16th studio album, ‘All The Colours of You’. Many in the crowd will have been familiar with the last time the two Manchester bands toured together, which Jim Glennie discussed with us in the video below. So were the antics as wild this time around?
Fans could have been forgiven for missing some of the Happy Mondays set, with mammoth queues to enter the venue testament to the anticipation and expectation ahead of the big hometown gig. But Ryder, Bez, Rowetta and co were on top form nonetheless, with a set packed with hits including opener ‘Kinky Afro’, ‘Loose Fit’, ‘Hallelujah’ and ’24 Hour Party People’. Of course, for penultimate track, ‘Step On’, the Arena was transformed into a dancefloor of ‘Bez dancers’, with the man himself rolling back the years to bring the energy from centre stage.
It was the ideal warm-up for the main event, which began with a taste of the latest record. ‘ZERO’ provided a moody yet perfect start to proceedings, with ‘Isabella’ preceding the first real crowd singalong of the evening in the shape of the iconic ‘She’s a Star’. It was followed by another big-hitter in ‘Born of Frustration’, as frontman, Tim Booth got into the groove of the evening.
Booth has often been known to join the crowd for a song or two during a James gig, and he did make reference to the fact he would have loved to do so again on the night, if it wasn’t for the obvious deterrents. But it wasn’t long before one of the night’s best moments, the moment it will certainly be remembered for…
Declaring the next song as being ‘inspired by Happy Mondays’, Bez rejoined the stage to strut his stuff to ‘Come Home’ from James’ 1990 album, ‘Gold Mother’. It was a moment of high spirits and cohesion, something evident of the whole crowd on the night, as Bez’s infectious dancing greeted fans one more time.
Another stand-out, poignant moment of the gig came 18 songs in, when Tim told the crowd about his father-in-law who sadly passed away during the pandemic. The next song would be the same he requested Tim to sing whilst in hospital, as Booth performed the first verse of classic hit ‘Sit Down’ acapella, before the full band launched into the track and created a carnival atmosphere in the arena.
Ending the main set with ‘Sound’, James returned for their encore with arguably the best track from ‘All The Colours of You’, in the shape of ‘Beautiful Beaches’. The final three tracks of ‘Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)’, ‘Laid’ and ‘Sometimes’ saw the loyal fanbase with arms around shoulders in full voice.
After what has been a difficult couple of years and of course, a lengthy absence of live music, it really felt like this hometown arena show was a special occasion for both bands and fans alike. It was the eptiome of Manchester and what makes the city one of the capitals of music!
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