SO.CO Team

8 months ago

Live Review: James @ The Darlington Arena - 5th August 2023

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Just three months after the British indie legends sold out venues around the UK in support of their album of orchestral reworkings of their litany of hits, James are back on the road in their more familiar guise as one of the country’s best singles bands. James simply do not disappoint live, and tonight in Darlington is no different. 

Matt Bowman of The Pigeon Detectives @ The Darlington Arena - 5th August 2023

Matt Bowman of The Pigeon Detectives @ The Darlington Arena - 5th August 2023

The stacked supporting line-up, featuring Editors, Maxïmo Park, and The Pigeon Detectives is not to be sniffed at either. Whilst the latter might never have scaled the heights promised by their successes with early singles including Take Her Back and I’m Not Sorry, it’s worth remembering that they scored seven consecutive number ones on the UK indie singles chart, so they clearly know what they’re doing. Today they deliver the perfect sunny afternoon hits set, despite the pouring rain, and it’s wonderful. Vocalist Matt Bowan leaps around the stage like a man possessed, and it’s impossible not to be swept along in his enthusiasm. With a freshly minted album now on the shelves and a UK tour scheduled for November, the weirdest thing about 2023 might just be that it’s The Pigeon Detectives’ year, all over again. 

Paul Smith of Maxïmo Park @ The Darlington Arena - 5th August 2023

Paul Smith of Maxïmo Park @ The Darlington Arena - 5th August 2023

There are few bands quite as reliable in a live setting as Maxïmo Park, and tonight they’re playing what’s pretty close to a hometown show (frontman Paul Smith was born just down the road in Billingham) so it was inconceivable that they’d put a foot wrong. The set leans heavily on first two albums Apply Some Pressure and Our Earthly Pleasures, and what’s amazing is just how fresh the songs that are almost twenty years old can sound. The opening imagery of Books From Boxes is still striking to this day, whilst the pomp of traditional show closer Apply Some Pressure is utterly irresistible even now. 

Justin Lockey and Tom Smith of Editors @ The Darlington Arena - 5th August 2023

Justin Lockey and Tom Smith of Editors @ The Darlington Arena - 5th August 2023

I first saw Editors at Leeds Festival in 2005, second from the bottom of the bill on the second stage, in a mostly empty tent. The band shuffled out looking slightly embarrassed to be there, and then proceeded to begin carving our their legacy in fine form, showcasing their then brand new debut album The Back Room. Eighteen years later and they are a different beast entirely. Their early Joy Division reminiscent soundscapes have given way to Germanic dancefloor  influenced indie-electronica, backed by newest member Blanck Mass (Benjamin John Power), who takes up permanent residency in the band following what was clearly a successful ‘interview’ when he reworked their sixth album, Violence, from the ground up. The key to Editors’ appeal is their seemingly limitless ability to reinvent themselves, and to constantly surprise. They’re a truly exceptional band, even when they have to do it on a damp night in Darlington.

Saul Davies of James  @ The Darlington Arena - 5th August 2023

Saul Davies of James @ The Darlington Arena - 5th August 2023

Hundreds of thousands of words have been written about James since they released their debut album, Stutter, almost 40 years ago. Most of those words have been gushing in their praise, and for very good reason. If you want a band with the songs, the stage presence and the sheer desire to give the paying public a great show, James are that band. The twin attack of vocalist Tim Booth and guitarist Jim Glennie sets the band apart tonight as it does every other time they play. Booth contorts his way around the stage whilst Glennie leads the band on guitar with passion, presence and purpose. Of course, without the songs, this would mean nothing. Tonight we’re treated to the hits (and there’s plenty of those!) alongside some deeper cuts. The biggest cheers are reserved for the big three of course (Sit Down, Getting Away With It and show-closer Laid) but the band could have omitted them, as they often do, and the show would have been no less superb. 

Tim Booth of James @ The Darlington Arena - 5th August 2023

Tim Booth of James @ The Darlington Arena - 5th August 2023

Words: Lynne Thwaites & Thomas Jackson

Photos: Thomas Jackson