Thursday, November 25, 2021

James Release Emotional Stripped Back ‘The Campfire EP’ On The Eve Of Their Latest Arena Tour

When James first called it a day after the departure of frontman Tim Booth in 2001, many thought that would be that. The Manchester band had become known for being stubbornly independent, not bowing to the voice of fans or labels alike. Thus, it was a fitting end for one of the most successful acts of the '90s, performing a sold-out hometown show at the then named MEN arena as their parting gift, climaxing in an emotional rendition of their hit ‘Sit Down’. 

However, as anyone who has been to see one of their live shows will know, James are often full of surprises and in 2007, the band reunited. Since then, they have been as productive as ever, producing 6 albums that certainly stand up against their early work.  

Latest release ‘All the Colours of You’ was well received by critics, with Emma Harrison of Clash calling it “Their strongest offering to date”, whilst fans old and new propelled it to number 3 in the UK album charts – their fifth top 5 studio album to date. 

Now, with a UK and Ireland arena tour set to begin, the band have announced the release of ‘The Campfire EP’. Recorded in the Yorkshire Dales, lead singer Booth stated “The beginning of the new James 9 Piece began at Broughton Hall. The sessions there felt magical”. 

A limited-edition run that can only be purchased from official tour merchandise stores or James’ own website, the four-track EP finds stripped-back reworkings of three songs from their latest album alongside fan favourite ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’. 

Opener ‘Miss America’ is Booth at his poignant best, as he takes on an emotional commentary of the modern American landscape. “Killed the natives and jailed the slaves / Moved more to the right” sighs the singer, in a melancholic fashion that perfectly encapsulates the inevitable resignation felt by many as the beacon of the free world seems to diminish daily. The Celtic inspired strings only add weight to the heaviness of the singers lyrics, whilst the sparse arrangement highlight the turbulent nature of the story being told. 

The burden of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effect on those left behind are the target of Booth on ‘Recover’ – a track inspired by the loss of his own father-in-law to the disease. The ethereal backing vocals that appear and fade like a ghost train carrying the souls of those we lost are a great contrast to the singer’s heavy vocals, that are delivered with what feels like the weight of the world on his shoulders. 

The reworked version found on the EP is an improvement on the already solid album version, as the lack of a drum machine allows the song to breath. It gives a greater depth of sadness to words such as “We will remember / Your wicked sense of fun” which hits with a certain poignancy due to its scarce musical surroundings. 

‘Magic Bus’ manages to capture the dance vibe found on the ‘All the Colours of You’ version with rolling drums and infectious bass. The chorus, reminiscent of the bands 1997 single ‘Waltzing Along’, is the first sing-along and anthemic moment on the EP. It’s testament to the skill of James that they’re able to make such a song sound so big on what is a supposedly stripped back version. 

Anyone familiar with James will be familiar with their chosen EP closer. ‘Just Like Fred Astaire’ is a fans favourite, often appearing on set lists, but it also happens to be one of the most underrated love songs ever written. The reworking is a simple and elegant example of the development of the bands extended line-up, as female backing vocals again add a beauty that elevates the track. It’s a toe-tapping and surprisingly joyous ending to an often-emotional release, but if James have taught their fans anything over the years, it’s to expect the unexpected. 

“I believe in happiness / I believe in love” proclaims Booth. It’s a much-needed affirmation after the rollercoaster of emotions that is ‘The Campfire EP’. Yet, those familiar with James concerts will know that, much like life, they are filled with peaks and troughs, but it’s the journey between those peaks that makes life, much like a James concert, so beautiful. 

James 2021 UK and Ireland Arena Tour - 



Thu 25 Leeds First Direct Arena 

Fri 26 Birmingham Utilita Arena 

Sun 28 Cardiff Motorpoint Arena 

Tue 30 Glasgow SSE Hydro 




Wed 01 Dublin 3 Arena 

Fri 03 Manchester Arena 

Sat 04 London Wembley Arena 


James Ogden 

Image: 'The Campfire EP' Official EP Cover

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