Live music galleries: Ottawa Bluesfest 2019, day four – James, Psychedelic Furs, Ashley MacIsaac

(Since I’ll be too busy attending Ottawa Bluesfest over the next week or so to continue with this blog’s regularly scheduled programming, I thought I would do a special ‘live galleries’ series this week to share some pics from some of the sets I am enjoying.)

James concert T-shirt

Artists: James, Psychedelic Furs, and Ashley MacIsaac
When: July 7th, 2019
Where: Lebreton Flats Park, Ottawa

James… in Ottawa!

Some words: When the lineup for this year’s festival was announced months ago, I had to blink and wipe my eyes and do a bunch of double takes: James?!? One of my favourite ever bands, James? Sure enough, it was them and not some other group or artist with the same moniker. Pass purchased.

Those of you who have been following along with these pages for a while will know that I’ve been a fan of the Manchester-based, hit-making alternative rock collective for a while and that they are also one of my wife, Victoria’s all-time favourites. The two of us drove to Montreal to see them in a small club back in 2008 (still one of our favourite ever shows) so the drive downtown from the suburbs was a much quicker trip. James is amazing live and yesterday’s afternoon set was just more proof of that. Their big sound is definitely conducive to the festival concept and frontman Tim Booth is just as engaging with the bigger crowds. Of course, at just an hour it was way too short but they still managed to fit quite a few classics in with their new material, rousing even non-fans with their only hit to cross over to North America: “Laid”. (And as evidenced above, I did buy a concert tee, the first I’ve owned in over a decade.)

Unfortunately, the line Victoria and I picked for food after James’s set was the wrong one. The meal when we finally received it was tasty enough but the purveyors were so disorganized, the close to one hour wait wasn’t worth it. This also meant we listened to almost half of The Psychedelic Furs‘ set from said queue and by the time we were done eating, we were never ever to get very close to the stage for all the young fans that were arriving early for The Killers. The Furs, who are currently touring North America with James, put on a good enough show, playing all their 80s hits and any other songs I would’ve wanted to hear. My wife didn’t think too much of them, though, and didn’t remember any of their stuff.

Afterwards, we navigated through the amassing crowds for a spot to watch the main stage headliners and Victoria wondered when The Killers got so big. We had seen them almost fifteen years before at a tiny club in Ottawa, just before they struck it big and while reminiscing about that, we realized that neither of us were tied to seeing them again. So we extricated ourselves from the masses and headed for the Bluesville stage to catch the side stage headline set by Ashley MacIsaac (yes, that Ashley MacIsaac). We found a seat on the bleachers and enjoyed some crazy celtic folk fusion by the award-winning Cape Breton born fiddler and percussionist Jay Andrews. It was quite the civilized way to end the evening.

Andy Diagram of James
Adrian Oxaal of James
David Baynton-Power of James
Mark Hunter of James
Saul Davies of James
Tim Booth in the crowd
Tim Butler and Amanda Kramer of The Psychedelic Furs
Rich Good and Mars Williams of The Psychedelic Furs
Richard Butler and Paul Gariston of The Psychedelic Furs
Ashley MacIsaac and Jay Andrews
Jay Andrews
Ashley MacIsaac

Best tunes of 1991: #1 James “Sit down”

<< #2

Okay. I have likely stretched this list out longer than it needed to be, given that I started counting down these tunes well over a year and a half ago. And well, for those of you who have frequented these pages in the just over two years since I started this blog and know that I am something of a James fanatic, this post might seem somewhat anticlimactic. And yet at the same time, this song placing at number one for 1991 may still come as somewhat of a surprise.

“Sit down” was originally released as a single in 1989 but in that seven minute long form, it didn’t take a big piece out of the music sales pie. The song was later re-recorded to a shorter length, with some editing in the lyrics, and re-released in 1991. This is the version that I first heard, being my first ever exposure to the band, coming to me like many of the songs on this list, in the form of the video recorded off of CityLimits. This is the version that many people know best, definitely making a bigger mark with the buying public, and placing one spot short of number one in the UK singles charts in 1991. Neither version appeared on the original track listing of their 1990 album “Gold mother” but the re-recorded “Sit down” was included when the album was released in North America as “James” with a new cover, the white flower insignia on blue backdrop. And though this has ultimately become my favourite James tune, I actually had to go searching for the original to remember what it even sounded like in my research for writing this post.

So yes, for me, this tune is 1991 at its best. The re-recording is definitely punchier, tighter, and more succinct than the original, perhaps influenced by the acid house dance and psychedelia prevalent at the time with their fellow Mancunians. Frontman Tim Booth was certainly a willing and able dancer for the music they created, just watch the video for a hint of his ecstatic moves. And there is depth here as well. But I’m not just talking about the multiple layers of sound that the band’s players create, though that definitely contributes to the majestic beauty of their music. Nay, it’s Booth’s recognizable vocals and his lyrics that set the band apart from their peers.

“If I hadn’t seen such riches, I could live with being poor.”

“Sit down”, for its danceable beats and upbeat melody, seems to be a song about those lowest moments in your life when you feel like you’re all alone, Booth sounding like he’s coming from a place of experience and wanting to assure us all that, if nothing else, he’s there for us all. But it’s not just Tim, no, the whole band, sliding guitars and the punished drum kit and all. It’s a song my wife Victoria loves, just as much as I do, perhaps her favourite by the band as well. I’m sure she’ll correct me if I’m wrong. However, we’ve definitely sung along together the following lines, while driving in the car, just hanging around, or wherever we’re hearing it.

“Those who feel the breath of sadness
Sit down next to me
Those who find they’re touched by madness
Sit down next to me
Those who find themselves ridiculous
Sit down next to me”

Yep. I think I could listen to this song forever.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1991 list, click here.

Live music galleries: James [2008]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

James live in Montreal, 2008

Artist: James
When: September 22nd, 2008
Where: Club Soda, Montreal
Context: I recently finished wrapping up the series on my favourite albums of 2008 and in talking about how James’s 10th album “Hey ma” was my number one, I also referenced their show that I caught in Montreal that year and how it was my favourite (as well as my wife’s favourite) ever live show. Much like the gallery I posted recently from the Virgin festival that took place earlier that same month, the pictures here are not quality because they were taken with my old camera but I do have pictures and this is mainly due to Victoria’s forethought. It was the first and last time we ever drove to Montreal and back the same night for a concert and never plan to do it again because it was exhausting. However, neither of us regret seeing the show. We saw one of our favourite bands that normally plays gigantic shows at an intimate venue and were able to sing along with all of our favourite tunes. In fact, the whole club loudly sang along, blowing the band away, especially during “Sometimes” when the crowd lengthened the song to well over seven minutes by repeating the chorus refrain over and over again. Such an exhilarating and magical night.
Point of reference song: Sometimes“*

Tim Booth, Mark Hunter, and Andy Diagram of James
Jim Glennie, Saul Davies, David Baynton-Power, and Andy Diagram of James
David Baynton-Power, Tim Booth, and Mark Hunter of James
Saul Davies and Andy Diagram of James
James performing ‘Sometimes’
James’s final bow

*The link I’ve shared is to the music video but someone who was also there has shared video footage from James’s performance of this song on YouTube from the show. You can find that here.