IMG 0677 scaled

LIVE: James / Johnny Marr / Inspiral Carpets – Lytham Festival

One of the musical highlights of 2023 was James reuniting with Joe Duddell for an orchestral tour with Orca22 and Manchester Inspiration Voices Choir, during which they performed at an array of picturesque venues across the UK – including London’s Royal Albert Hall and Blackpool’s Winter Gardens. Fortunately, for those who missed the initial performances, the band announced later in the year that they would be adding two more shows, featuring their longtime friend and guitar legend, Johnny Marr. We had the pleasure of attending the second show, which saw them headline Lytham Festival.

Three other artists joined Johnny as support acts – The Kairos, The Magic Numbers and Inspiral Carpets. Despite playing to early arrivals as the gates opened at 4pm, Merseyside’s The Kairos impressed with a short but sweet set of tracks characterised by frenzied guitar, fuzzy bass lines and pummelling beats – from crowd pleasers such as ‘Lazy Lethargic’ and ‘Thick of It’, to the more subdued ‘Rat Race’, which still packed one hell of a punch. 

IMG 0764 VSCO 1

The Magic Numbers were next and their dreamy pop tracks certainly provided the perfect soundtrack for a sunny Sunday afternoon. Opening with ‘Forever Lost’, they nicely worked ‘Love’s A Game‘ into Curtis Mayfield’s ‘People Get Ready‘ before captivating the crowd with the emotionally charged ‘I See You, You See Me’. Sadly, the band were forced to drop out of Glastonbury last week due to bassist Michele Stodart recovering from spinal surgery and based on the smiles plastered across their faces, the band were visibly overjoyed to be back onstage together. Following the melodic ‘Love Me Like You’, the set concluded joyously with ‘Mornings Eleven’. Boasting an indie-pop riff and irresistibly catchy chorus, the track felt perfectly crafted for that exact moment, leaving the audience on a high note.

FullSizeRender VSCO 5
IMG 0782 VSCO

Inspiral Carpets followed, storming through a set of classics from the 80s and 90s that have undeniably stood the test of time – from their raucous opener ‘She Comes In The Fall’ to the gentle penultimate track, ‘This Is How It Feels’. It’s easy to see why the Inspirals are one of Manchester most beloved bands and they relish in where they come from, even paying tribute to fellow Mancunian, Mark E Smith, with ‘I Want You’. Featuring The Fall frontman’s unmistakable vocals, the jarring track delivered one of the band’s most energetic performances of the set, thrilling the nostalgia lovers in the crowd. There was only one song that could end the set and that was the exuberant ‘Saturn 5’. Led by the dynamic sounds of Clint Boon’s keyboard, ‘Saturn 5’ had everyone dancing and saw the band thrilled by the enthusiastic response it still receives so many years down the line.

IMG 0788 VSCO

Johnny Marr and James possess a friendship and musical collaboration spanning over 30 years, since the legendary guitar played a pivotal role in the rise of the band when they supported The Smiths on their Meat Is Murder tour in 1985. The penultimate support act, Johnny burst onto the stage with the synth-infused ‘Armatopia’. A staple in his festival sets, the upbeat solo track set the stage perfectly for the first Smiths track of the night, ‘Panic’, before he paid homage to his debut solo album with the blistering ‘Generate! Generate!’

Though on tour in support of his Spirit Power album, which commemorates a decade of his solo career, Johnny’s solo material was regrettably sparse, with standout moments including the electro-gospel influenced ‘Spirit Power and Soul’ and acoustic ‘Somewhere’ – two tracks that couldn’t be more different, they were the ideal selection to highlight both Johnny’s expansive range and ambitious musical vision. Always generous with his inclusion of Smiths tracks, Johnny revitalises them with a fresh perspective – something that was most notable with his stripped-back rendition of ‘Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want’. Armed with an acoustic guitar, his emotive performance created a rare moment of silence in the festival field, with his smooth vocals resonating through the air.

Known for its catchy hooks, ‘Easy Money’ is recognised as one of Johnny’s most popular solo songs and it kept the good vibes flowing as he followed it with a high spirited cover of Iggy Pop’s ‘The Passenger’. Highlighting his skills as one of the best guitarists out there, classics ‘This Charming Man’ and ‘How Soon Is Now’ swept the crowd off their feet, though it was the Electronic track ‘Getting Away With It’’ that was the high point when it came to material from his previous bands. Introduced by Johnny as a disco song from Manchester, the dramatically rearranged version of the 1989 hit features one of Johnny’s finest guitar solos and served as a poignant reminder of the brilliance he has contributed to numerous bands over the years. Inspiring a mass singalong, the rousing ‘There Is a Light That Never Goes Out’ brought Johnny’s set to a truly triumphant end and, leaving us counting down the days until he’s back onstage with James again, on their co-headline tour in North America later this year.

IMG 0940 VSCO 2
841FD5BF 0998 485D 87B8 EA469AAFF3DD 4

Last but certainly not least was James, who opened with ‘Magic Bus’ from the band’s sixteenth studio album All the Colours of You. With its usual synth beats replaced by strings, the stripped-back rendition was a poignant opener, with its lyrics (“All aboard, magic bus. Take a ride, become one of us”) perfectly welcomed the audience to the enchantment of a James show, where the crowd and band seamlessly become one. The piano-led ‘Dust Motes’ followed, with its beauty enhanced by the orchestra bursting in, before the inspirited ‘The Shining’. The next track saw the band revisit their second album with a rapturous version of ‘Medieval’, complete with an animated display on screen that transformed the band into a living tapestry in real-time, highlighting the exceptional production of the band’s latest run of shows.

A band full of surprises, after just four songs, they were joined by Johnny Marr for a joyous rendition of ‘Laid’ that could have easily served as the final track of the night. As Tim danced around the stage, Johnny interacted closely with multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Chloe Alper and trumpeter Andy Diagram. The sheer joy of sharing the stage was evident on their faces, and it’d be surprising if they didn’t revel in this experience when they perform in North America. A collaboration like that would be impossible for most bands to follow, but James delivered with ‘Tomorrow’. Always a crowd-pleaser, the song was made even more powerful by the orchestra, which intensified its emotive impact. ‘All The Colours of You’ came next, showcasing Tim’s emotionally charged vocals. Released in 2021, the exhilarating track highlights the band’s enduring passion for experimenting with their sound. In a mind-blowing moment, it expertly blended into the unifying anthem ‘Many Faces’, which shone a spotlight on Chloe’s sublime vocals, which have significantly enhanced the band’s sound since she joined.

58A62FC5 D81A 43B1 BD21 19FD62481A74

After a handful of uptempo numbers, the band slowed things down with ‘The Lake’ – a B-side that sadly didn’t make it onto the Laid album. A rarely played track that has divided fans’ opinions over the years, it undeniably presented an awe-inspiring moment that reflected both the magic and genius of Joe Duddell’s arrangements. The respectful crowd allowed the band to maintain a relaxed pace for the next few songs – ‘Hello’, ‘Shadow of a Giant’ and ‘Someone’s Got It In For Me’. While the strings from the orchestra offered a perfect backdrop to Tim and Chloe’s hushed vocals during ‘Hello’, ‘Shadow of a Giant’ undoubtedly benefitted from the accompaniment of the Manchester Inspirational Voices Gospel Choir, which resonated beautifully alongside Saul Davies’ stunning violin playing. Featuring spectacular vocals from Joshua Gordon, ‘Someone’s Got It In For Me’ was paused briefly to attend to a member of the crowd needing medical attention. The band’s professionalism in restarting the song was commendable. With Tim jokingly referencing that they’d “cut in on figure 3”, they resumed seamlessly, akin to pressing play on an album, with every member on stage hitting their mark flawlessly.

Tim’s ability to connect with the crowd has always been paramount to him, and during ‘Say Something’ he ventured to the barrier, demonstrating his knack for maintaining that connection even in a large festival setting. He engaged with fortunate fans at the front until he returned to the stage for ‘Sometimes’, noting its demand for more concentration. Concluding the set was the melancholic ‘Folks’, marking its debut performance of the track. A poignant choice, as it not only serves as the closing piece on their latest album Yummy, but also marked the finale of their orchestral tour.

James aren’t a band to rush through a set, and if the curfew permits, they’ll extend the party. To maximize the number of tracks played, Tim humorously asked the crowd to pretend they had left the stage and returned, allowing them to skip straight to the encore. Typically, the band would ramp up the energy for the anthemic ‘Sit Down’, but with the orchestra, they took a different approach – yielding sublime results, yet still sparking the mass singalong that you’d expect. A majorly reworked version of ‘Beautiful Beaches’ followed, before the band came to a triumphant end with ‘Getting Away With It’.

After experiencing the beauty of the band’s orchestral shows last year, we were initially unsure if and how they would translate to an outdoor setting. However, James proved their unwavering prowess once again with a headline set at Lytham Festival that was utterly sublime. Their versatility shone brightly as they delivered another performance of unparalleled beauty.

IMG 0677 1
  1. As a professional video and photo editor, I am impressed by the visual storytelling in these images from the Lytham Festival. The photos effectively capture the essence and energy of the performances, bringing the viewer into the moment.
    In the titled “FullSizeRender VSCO 5,” the lighting and composition are well-executed, highlighting the artist on stage against the backdrop of the crowd. The use of VSCO presets enhances the colors, adding warmth and depth to the scene, which draws the viewer’s attention to the main subject while maintaining the vibrancy of the crowd.
    The image, “IMG 0782 VSCO,” features the Inspiral Carpets and showcases excellent stage lighting and focus use. The photographer has captured the dynamic performance beautifully, with sharp details that emphasize the energy and movement on stage. The vibrant background and clear focus on the artists create a compelling and engaging visual narrative.
    These images document the performances and evoke the emotions and atmosphere of the festival. The technical execution, from lighting to composition, enhances the visual appeal to make these photos a standout representation of the event.
    The post’s visuals serve as a great reminder of the festival’s highlights. They can also inspire other photographers and editors to use similar techniques to capture and enhance their event photography.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

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.