Venue: Tron Theatre, Glasgow, 2 May 2004. (Part of Triptych Festival)
Author – Ken Boswell
What to see, What to see… We’d dragged ourselves away from Future Pilot AKA in the main theatre, who’d just won us over with a version of Ivor Cutler’s ‘Women take over the world’, to see James in the crowded and very intimate confines of the Tron’s Vic Bar. I must admit I felt like a bit of a fraud; I’d seen him and the athletes a good few times (the last time just before Christmas) and felt that the whole point of the Creeping / Fence thing was to see acts you wouldn’t normally see, and here was us plumping for the safe option. But there we were, hemmed in at the front with James nervously setting up in front of us.
Unfortunately for the Nectarine no 9, who were going head to head with James, he didn’t disappoint. Opening up with a couple of new songs, he ripped into the set with gusto, in front of an appreciative and well-refreshed crowd – he was on at 10pm and we’d been there since 4! The new songs sounded great – darker, but spiced up with the wit and wordplay that was evident on ‘Moving Up country’. However, after some consultation, James seemed to be of the opinion that some of the newer material was under-rehearsed and they started off chewing through the back catalogue. Familiarity may well breed contempt in some audiences and some musicians, but James and the athletes invariably put a new spin on these songs every time I see them played – No ‘moving Up Country’ but ‘Tender to the Blues’ was reinvented using the Vic bar’s old barrelhouse piano giving it even more poignancy and hints of bittersweet melancholy. The piano was used again in the last track, an absolutely storming version of I Spy Dogs, with the erstwhile accordionist ripping into the keys in his best Ray Charles style – all blues rolls and clatter. We got one encore – something about taking someone back to the Neuk, played solo with some lovely simple understated fingerpicking, and with that we rushed through to try and catch the Nectarine No 9 – only to hear and see the audience going mental to get an encore but nothing forthcoming…Ah well, you can’t see everything I suppose…