James celebrate 40 years with orchestral tour & double album. York Barbican sold out

James on stage: Next spring their ranks will swell by 30 when joined by an orchestra and gospel choir

ENDURING Manchester band James will play York Barbican on April 28 on next spring’s James Lasted Orchestral Tour.

Led as ever by Boston Spa-born singer Tim Booth, this 40th anniversary celebration will come loaded with a 22-piece orchestra and eight-strong gospel choir conducted by Joe Dundell.

The tour title is presumably a nod to both James’s longevity and to the orchestral music once synonymous with James Last, the German composer, jazz double bassist big band leader of the James Last Orchestra.

All 15 dates on the 2023 orchestral tour have sold out already, including Sheffield City Hall on May 4 as well as Liverpool’s Philharmonic Hall, Birmingham Symphony Hall and a Royal Albert Hall finale in London.

That itinerary will be accompanied by a double album of new versions of James’s greatest hits, fan favourites and deep cuts, plus one new composition, as yet untitled. Full details including release date, tracklisting and formats are to be announced soon.

The poster for the James Lasted Orchestral tour in 2023

Recorded at Blueprint Studios, Manchester, the album was arranged and conducted by Duddell – whose credits include Elbow and New Order – working in tandem with Orca, the orchestra assigned to the tour too, and a gospel choir.

Since playing as James for the first time when supporting Big Country at Manchester’s Hacienda on November 17 1982, they have released 16 studio albums, sold 25 million records, and enjoyed an Indian summer renaissance with a run of Top Five albums with Girl At The End Of The World, narrowly missing out on the top spot in 2016 to Adele’s 25, 2018’s Living In Extraordinary Times and 2021’s The Colours Of You.

Last December’s arena tour, taking in Leeds First Direct Arena with fellow Mancunians Happy Mondays in support, was their biggest selling and most successful to date.

Looking ahead to the 2023 tour and double album release, Booth, 62, says: “There are a number of great bands who have been around for 40 [years]. But to get here and to be having the best time of our lives. To be part of a supportive loving family that still has something to say and new ways to say it. To be turned on by every gig and song. To fall in love over and over again, Groundhog Day, with our bandmates and audience. Damn. That’s time well spent.

James, at Broughton Hall, near Skipton, in May 2021, when gathered for rehearsals and promotional duties for 16th studio All The Colours Of You. Picture: Lewis Knaggs

“We should have recorded the orchestra tour first time round, as many of you have reminded us. Well, we’ve done it now. And here comes the tour. The orchestra and gospel singers expand our palette, heighten the tenderness, heighten the celebration and, despite their numbers, somehow leave us feeling more naked and raw. It will be different, probably each night, because we are James and Joe [Duddell] knows how to dance with us. And because you are different, each night.”

Bassist Jim Glennie, 59, adds: “Has it really been 40 years? In some ways it feels like yesterday and in others, many lifetimes. A family of brothers and sisters, willing to support each other musically and emotionally. Uniquely challenging, always pushing ourselves into the new and taking risks collectively and individually, looking for transcendence.”

Joining Booth and Glennie in the tour line-up will be Saul Davies, Adrian Oxaal, David Baynton-Power, Mark Hunter, Andy Diagram, Chloe Alper and Deborah Knox-Hewson.  

Marking diaries for next summer’s outdoor concert season, James are booked in to play Live At The Piece Hall 2023 in Halifax, West Yorkshire, on July 7 and a hastily added second show on July 8, due to “phenomenal demand”.  

Already confirmed for The Piece Hall in 2023 are Madness on June 16 and 17; The War On Drugs, June 21; Rag’n’Bone Man, June 23; Embrace, July 1; Sting, July 3, and The Lumineers, July 9, with plenty more acts yet to be announced.  Box office: thepiecehall.co.uk.