A black and white photograph of the band James standing together in a large white room.
Credit: Press

Review: James @ The OVO Hydro

By Ciara McAlinden

Two acts with unarguable legend-status descend on the Hydro to perform what was, for many, their first post-lockdown concert … resulting in an interesting evening.

At the end of November, I went to what I assumed would be a mad 90s throwback night with music legends James and Happy Mondays. After two years of absence, the manoeuvres around the Hydro proved just as wild as ever. From prosecco-drunk mums with a night off from the kids, to Strongbow-drunk 17-year-olds harassing folk for a cigarette outside; the eclectic mix of characters elevated my expectations for a wild night. Even when the pre-gig playlist boomed from the speakers, the crowd went wild for every tune, and it was clear that Happy Mondays had drawn a mad bunch. 

The playlist stops, the lights go down, and one by one the icons emerge. With no need for a dramatic first-chord entry to make the crowd lose their shit, Shaun Ryder and Bez begin their banter. Do I know what they said? Not even a bit, but they sounded as though they found their own jokes funny. As they played their repertoire of bangers, I could only focus on one thing: over the sea of bald heads and bucket hats, there shone the beacon that is Bez, shaking his maracas and repeating the same two moves over and over. Though this might sound like a complaint, it was easily the highlight of the night: his stage presence and charisma was just so charming, and the more he danced, the better my night became. It was actually sad that they spent so little time onstage.

With the departure of Shaun, Bez and the gang, there emerged an air of excitement: what classics will James play? Well, as they entered one by one onto the stage, frontman Tim Booth announces that their first song will capture the general mood of the world over the course of the past few years. Quiet chords play, and he announces, in his strong, slightly raspy tone, that “We’re all gonna die”. A fair evaluation, I guess, but strange as an opening statement. 

What was also strange was the choice to kick off their set with a new song, but I guess when you have a whole room of loyal fans you can play what you like. But this is where my main frustration lay – the setlist curation could have been a lot better, and it was evident at points that they were losing their audience’s attention due to a huge integration of new music that, sorry James, no one listens to. Don’t get me wrong, their new music sounded phenomenal live, but it seemed to go against what many people went for: nostalgic escapism. My main main problem, however, lay with Booth’s rude comment regarding the crowd, claiming that Glasgow is usually great to play for, but that fateful night he didn’t enjoy our company. These comments left a sour taste in the mouths of a fair few crowd members, as became apparent. Well, Tim, play your good tunes and you’ll get a better reaction, that’s all I can say. They played Laid though, so I guess all is forgiven.


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Simon Field

Tim didn’t denigrate the audience – he stated they were quiet for a `Glasgow audience. They were. A hydro record of 550 had been ejected before the band came on