Live Review: James, Nadeah, Hawksley Workman

19 November 2018 | 2:43 pm | Jessica Higgins

"Booth was deep into the crowd by the second song ('Better Than That'), surfing across his adoring fans."

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Hawksley Workman opened for James as people were filing into a sold out show at the Metro. Workman has both a bizarre and captivating performing style, and his rambling, self-deprecating banter with the crowd reflects the rambling and versatile nature of his songs. A woman in the crowd requested Smoke Baby and Workman seemed surprised that anyone knew the track. He launched into it, after checking, "Did somebody pay you to ask for that song?"

Workman has a comfortable and unconcerned stage presence and is a natural entertainer. Unfortunately, some of his A-grade chatter was lost to a quiet mic. He performed alone, accompanied only by a guitar, but his sound filled out the venue regardless. His vocals are a wonder – at times he stopped playing and the range and style of his vocals were so varied that it almost didn’t need any instrument.

A standout was Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off. He closed with a call to action to those in the seated section: "Comfy people stay comfy!"

Nadeah came on stage telling fans, "People tell me they can’t work out my accent. It’s French-Australian. There, now you don’t have to think about it." She then proceeded to speak in an accent so ocker it’d make ScoMo jealous.

She and her guitarist opened with the polished Met A Man. The only percussion in the song was Nadeah on the tambourine and when she started grooving with it, the French-Australian reached levels of cool us mere mortals could only dream of.

Nadeah and her guitarist played a cover of Prince’s Gett Off, but while it was fun and well-suited to her style, the crowd was becoming restless for James and her sleek elegance would have been better suited to a more intimate venue when all eyes and ears could be focused (absolutely deservedly) to her alone.

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When lead singer Tim Booth followed his band members on stage (eight in all tonight) he received a wild and loving welcome from fans, the majority of whom seemed to be UK/Irish expats.

James opened with Hank, five of the eight striking drums in a coordinated, dramatic motion. Booth was deep into the crowd by the second song (Better Than That), surfing across his adoring fans.

He said (ahead of performing Extraordinary Times) simply, "We are living in extraordinary times." The expat crowd would have no doubt felt this message keenly so soon after Theresa May pushed Brexit another step forward.

While the rest of the band were in dark colours (with the exception of the floral number trumpeter Andy Diagram sported) Booth wore a white shirt and wide, flowing pants, making him look like an enigmatic spiritual leader. The way he glided through the crowd did nothing to dispel this image either.

James wove in tracks from their 2018 album, Living In Extraordinary Times, in between playing established fan-favourites, including Born Of Frustration, Johnny Yen and to the crowd’s absolutely euphoric delight, Come Home. Booth led the crowd in letting go, his own body jerking and flowing with the music.

So many songs built to such a soaring crescendo that we expected they’d be the last, but James closed with Many Faces, which Booth said was written in response to Trump’s wall, "and all that racist shit". It was an impeccable closer - clear, simple and catchy enough to carry their message home long after the music has finished. They stopped playing their instruments to finish, singing the final notes in unison, supporting the 'oneness' missive of the song.

James came back and sang three of their biggest hits to encore; Sometimes, Sit Down, and Laid. The crowd sung along to all, almost drowning out the music. Booth got back in the crowd ("It's more fun down there!") and invited about 30 people up to dance on stage for Laid.

James is an enduring force of energy that we hope keeps provoking change through [terrific] music for many more years to come.