In retrospect, I can't believe I almost didn't go to this show, because it is easily my favorite show I've been to this year. Yes, The National and Okkervil River and Nada Surf are all up there, but James is a band I've loved since high school and I only ever got to see them once way back then. So again, I have to thank Jeff S. for buying me the ticket.
I got to the House of Blues early because I wanted to hit happy hour, but I was also hoping to find someone from the band or band's management to work on a photo pass since I was unsuccessful reaching anyone via e-mail and you can't not try, right? Unfortunately, I didn't find anyone, but I did end up sitting at the bar and meeting an old school jazz promoter named Jack who had some great stories. We kinda got lost in conversation and I missed opener Unkle Bob entirely.
When I did finally make my way into the venue, I was AMAZED. The House of Blues was allowing 'point & shoot' cameras! I could hardly believe it. Later, during the show, Tim Booth announced that they'll be back in March and "if you like what you're hearing, tell your friends and bring them along when we come back next year," which made me think allowing the cameras was maybe a smart band marketing strategy and wasn't new HoB policy. Or maybe it's both.
Either way, I made my way near the front and waited for what would be an incredible show. While waiting, I met two guys from Dallas and a woman from London, all who had been to multiple shows on the west coast. Many people do not know James, but for those who do, there is a deep love. It's everything music should be. It's break-up music. It's redemption music. It's make-up music. It's make out music. It's music with hope. It's sing-along music. It's cry yourself to sleep music. It's music that reminds you that tomorrow is a new day. More if you 'keep on reading'.
Personally, I was a little afraid that the band would stick mostly with new material from their new album "Hey, Ma!" alternating with radio hits from "Laid" but instead they played a diverse set including new music, but going all the way back to their self-titled debut. From the first beats of "Dream Thrum" to the full on sing along of "Sit Down", I was smiling from ear to ear. Not only is the music incredible, but watching Tim dance was really something else altogether.
These are from the earliest part of the show, and while dark and fuzzy, I wanted to post Tim's horrific outfit, because honestly, by the end of the show I was convinced he's the sexiest man on the planet.
They played for nearly two hours. Highlights for me were "Ring The Bells", "Out To Get You", "Born of Frustration" into "Sit Down", and my favorite song, "Sometimes" which lead into "Laid", the last song of the night. "Sometimes" was particularly amazing with over two minutes of the crowd singing, "Sometimes I look in your eyes, I see your soul" with Tim encouraging the chant with, "I dare you."
I had stepped outside for a second during the show, and ran into Mat Diablo from 91X and we chatted for a bit. He told me that Tim Booth is a transcendental dancer which would explain his 'dance like nobody is watching' moves on stage. The dancing creates a chain reaction among the crowd and everyone moves along in a fluid wave. Yes, I too, was dancing.
I was only disappointed by one thing for the show. The guys from Dallas said that at all their shows, they'd have the crowd jump onstage for Laid. That didn't happen in San Diego, unfortunately, though it's probably better because I might've just lost my mind. Also, I regret not buying a shirt, but no matter my love, $30 is just way too much for a concert t-shirt.
The show was incredible and I am very excited about the prospect of seeing the band again in 2009.
James Setlist, House of Blues San Diego, 10.03.08
James performed that afternoon on Fm 94/9. Here's the video from that:
James "Hey Ma"
James "White Boy"