The Manch­ester band makes a wel­come re­turn to Dubai this month

What's On (Dubai) - - CULTURE -

It’s 1990, the “Mad­ch­ester’ scene that made stars of Happy Mon­days and The Stone Roses is in full swing, and a wildeyed, youth­ful 30 year-old with a mop of curly hair has a huge crowd in the palm of his hand. James front­man Tim Booth ca­joles Manch­ester’s G-Mex to “sit down next to me”, and thou­sands do just that, be­fore roar­ing the cho­rus of the band’s en­dur­ing an­them back to him, over and over again. Booth is clearly over­whelmed at the re­ac­tion. “How do we fol­low that one?” he asks. It’s a ques­tion he, and his band, have prob­a­bly asked them­selves ever since.

This sum­mer, he ad­mit­ted to The Guardian that “a part of me can’t un­der­stand how I can be 58” – a nat­u­ral re­ac­tion to the re­al­ity of the pass­ing of time that any­one who loved that G-Mex gig the first time around can em­pathise with (it’s a bril­liant YouTube nos­tal­gia trip th­ese days). But as far as Tim Booth is con­cerned there’s a more pos­i­tive mean­ing; far from be­ing a her­itage artist look­ing back at his hal­cyon days, he’s now ap­proach­ing 60 as the front­man of an in­die­rock band who are more suc­cess­ful than ever.

Af­ter all, it’s usu­ally a dispir­it­ing mo­ment when a much-loved band in­ter­rupts a cel­e­bra­tory gig to an­nounce, “This one’s a new one”. But in James’ case, the ma­te­rial from Au­gust’s Liv­ing In Ex­tra­or­di­nary Times stands up to any­thing from the early 1990s pe­riod that be­gat Sit Down, Come Home or Laid.

It’s a con­fi­dent record of light and shade, mar­ry­ing the per­sonal and po­lit­i­cal in thought-pro­vok­ing style. Not bad for a bunch of bald­ing fifty-some­things, but it still feels spec­tac­u­larly bizarre that 2016’s Girl at the End of the World came within a whisker of knock­ing the all-con­quer­ing Adele off the No.1 spot. Look a bit closer, how­ever, and it made a lot of sense that James’ 14th al­bum be­came their best sell­ing ever. Packed with joy­ful sin­ga­long pop songs, sprin­kled with syn­thy magic dust from Killers and Gold­frapp pro­ducer Max Din­gel and ap­peal­ing to ex­actly the kind of peo­ple who still buy records and feel an affin­ity – loy­alty, even – to the bands of their youth, it struck a num­ber of chords.

It helps, too, that the live shows have also be­come less of a nos­tal­gia trip and more a cel­e­bra­tion of the sur­vival, cre­ativ­ity and the ef­fer­ves­cence of Tim Booth. The band is now an eight piece, and the songs are bom­bas­ti­cally pow­er­ful when they need to be, yet qui­etly in­ti­mate when the oc­ca­sion arises. Th­ese days, in­deed, they may not even play Sit Down ev­ery night. What would have seemed un­think­able in 1990 now makes per­fect sense; the re­union 11 years ago rekin­dled the band’s love for new mu­sic. Nov 22

The Ir­ish Vil­lage, Garhoud, 9.30pm to 11pm, Dhs175. Tel: (04) 2824750. Taxi: The Ir­ish Vil­lage, Garhoud theirishvil­lage.com

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