James and The Charlatans // First Direct Arena, Leeds // 9.12.18

James and The Charlatans // First Direct Arena, Leeds // 9.12.18

A cold December evening in Leeds was swiftly warmed up by two iconic Manchester bands, who each played their sets with a bravado and passion equal to that of their respective hey-days in the 1990s. 

 The Charlatans took to the stage first, frontman Tim Burgess egged on the crowd from the get-go as the band burst into hits ‘One to Another’ and ‘North Country Boy’ early on. The typical Britpop/Madchester fusion of sound carried on throughout the rest of their impressive career spanning set. By the time ‘The Only One I Know’ and ‘How High’ came along those on the floor beneath me were bouncing like it was 1997, and it was rare for anyone in the packed seating area to still be perched. Their set was a fantastic warmup for the main act to come, and the band made sure to leave the crowd pleased by playing their biggest numbers.

Half an hour later, James stormed the stage with a thunderous start to their set with frontman Tim Booth swaying like one of those wacky inflatable dancing figures you see outside car wash centres. However, the solid Rock ’n’ Roll sound was accompanied by more whimsical, thoughtful lyrics. It is clear that James are joining Damon Albarn in being influenced by the current tumultuous political situation, both here and across the Atlantic. The album title Living In Extraordinary Times is most certainly using “extraordinary” in the shocking sense rather than a positive one. The set was a perfect blend of new and old material, with songs like ‘Sit Down’, ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’ and ‘Moving On’ all forcing raucous reactions from the crowd. Tim Booth wasn’t just making shapes on the stage, he took it upon himself to jump into the crowd for around five minutes, and remarkably kept singing in tune whilst being carried along by the fans below him. 

Charlie Cooling