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LIVE: James / Jamie Webster / Tom A Smith – The Piece Hall, Halifax, 08/07/2023

An architectural and cultural wonder, Halifax’s The Piece Hall is the perfect backdrop for experiencing live music. A series of open-air concerts began at the historic destination in 2022, featuring a lineup of world class artists and bands. This year’s lineup included two nights of Manchester icons James, supported by up and coming artists, Tom A Smith and Jamie Webster. We were there for the second night – and it was certainly one to remember.

First up was Tom A Smith. Having previously supported the likes of Miles Kane and Sir Elton John, Tom A. Smith’s name is on everyone’s lips. Having been on the scene since the age of eight, he’s built quite the following and is now backed by a full band. Tom’s released a wealth of material over the last year and he stormed through a set of catchy tracks that included ‘Like You Do’, ‘Never Good Enough’ and his latest single ‘Weirdo’. A confident frontman, Tom’s vocals shined bright and the joy of seeing the crowd singing his lyrics was plastered across his face. Boasting punchy beats and riffs aplenty, each and every track in Tom’s set has the potential to be a future indie anthem and we can’t wait to hear them blasting out from festival stages throughout the Summer.

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Jamie Webster was next. Having just played two nights at On the Waterfront at Liverpool’s Pier Head, the singer songwriter is certainly on the rise and it’s not hard to see why. After short but sweet set of tracks that included ‘Going Out’ and his new single ‘Voice of the Voiceless’, Jamie’s set was unfortunately cut short due to a power cut. The down to earth Liverpudlian did his best to persevere by performing an acoustic cover of ‘Dreaming of You’ by The Coral from the front of the stage, though it wasn’t long before he had to leave the stage due to an expected thunderstorm. 

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After teasing.the crowd with a line from ‘Sometimes’ in reference to the storm, James frontman Tim Booth invited Jamie Webster back onstage to join the band as they kicked off proceedings with the anthemic ‘Getting Away With It’ – a heartwarming gesture that’s rare to see from a headline act as big as James. The cheerful melody and pummelling beats of ‘All The Colours Of You’ – the lead single of their 2021 studio album of the same name – was next, before the band launched into the joyous ‘Waltzing Along’, which saw Tim make his first visit to the barrier of the night.

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Having celebrated their 40th anniversary as a band just last year, James have a wealth of material – seventeen studio albums to be exact – and they certainly know how to craft a setlist that reflects all areas of their career. After treating the crowd to two tracks from their eighth album Millionaires – ‘We’re Going to Miss You’ and the jaunty ‘I Know What I’m Here For’ – the band went even further back in time with the rapturous ‘Medieval’ from the 1988 released Strip-mine.

After six tracks of an upbeat nature, the band brought the tempo down with a stunning rendition of ‘Five-O’, which highlighted the quality of instrumental talent amongst the band members – with the spotlight shining particularly bright on multi-instrumentalist Saul Davies’ hypnotic violin work. Sadly, as the band prepped to play She’s a Star’, the weather took a turn for the worst and they were taken off stage due to lightning reportedly hitting a nearby church.

With the rain still pouring, the band returned to the stage to rapturous applause, before diving into the atmospheric ‘Sound’, which shone a light on trumpeter Andy Diagram’s talent and creativity as he demonstrated the multiverse of sounds that he can make. Looking out at the soggy crowd, Tim shared the good news that the venue were lifting their strict curfew for them, to make up for the twenty minutes of their set that had been lost.

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Despite the storm causing them to perform their set in two halves, the band showed no signs of the pause affecting their flow and the sheer energy from the stage was enough to keep the soggy crowd in good spirits. Renowned for their onstage spontaneity, the band often change their setlist up to match the atmosphere, crowd or even the venue – and they did exactly that. Aware of the fact that the crowd were dripping wet, they ensured that final segment of the set featured hits aplenty. Based on the euphoric response to tracks including ‘Born of Frustration’, ‘Sit Down’ and ‘Laid’, they definitely made the right decision.

There’s always something spectacular about catching a James show in the rain and that experience was enhanced by a rousing version of ‘Sometimes’ that had Andy holding a crutch in the air (he recently underwent surgery for a broken metatarsal) and the crowd singing the chorus back at the top of their voices for what felt like hours. The show came to an explosive end with the synth-fuelled ‘Come Home’ – a track that’s been missing from recent set-lists as most of the band’s shows this year have been of an orchestral nature. 

Stronger and more salient than ever, James remain to be one of the best live bands around. Their second night in the beautiful surroundings of the Piece Hall was a clear insight into not just the magic that they produce as a nine piece, but how much fun they’re having whilst they do it.

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God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.