The Lytham Festival draws to an end tonight and its a special one to see it out, it’s the wonderful James but not just an usual James gig, they have brought along Joe Duddell with an orchestra and choir and a few friends to boot too. For those unfamiliar with the Lytham Festival its set in spectacular surroundings on the sea front at Lytham St Anne’s and has an incredible 20,000 capacity making each night feel truly spectacular.

The event is run by Cuffe & Taylor who also oversee the equally amazing Piece Hall summer gigs and they seem to share a similar standard of acts across the 2 events with many on the billings having done both at some point. Setting off I’m cursing my luck again as once again its absolutely chucking it down but for once this year my luck was about to change as when I hit the M6 the grey disappears and heading down the M55 it just got better and better and by the time I’m parked up it was glorious sunshine and blue skies, happy happy days!

Unfortunately having only got last minute clearance and getting through the various road blocks in place for the event I missed the Liverpudlian openers Kairos, however, my RGM colleague Hels was there to catch their set…


Kairos are certainly making a name for themselves in the North and beyond. The Liverpudlian foursome are hugely talented, with self penned tracks that demand you to listen. It was a lovely sight to behold when the band got an incredibly warm reception from this Lytham audience, some of whom ran all the way from the box office to the barrier to ensure they did not miss a single lyric from lead singer Tom! This band may be first on the bill today (and what an impressive bill this is), but mark my words, in a year or so they will be much further up the ranks. These guys have the attitude, talent and energy to make something from this industry! Check them out on tour soon!

Due to the efforts it took to find the VIP area normally by this point I’d be a little stressed but its The Magic Numbers, they just soothe all that away and coupled with the sun beaming down it looks like its going to be a happy, incredible afternoon and evening.

Inspiral Carpets 

As soon as they walk on stage to the calls of Boon Army Boon Army you could tell the Manchester contingency were out in force today, braving the sun on their normally soaked skin and the boys weren’t going to let them down opening up with Two Worlds Collide before taking it right back to the early days with Real Thing its a proper trip within 45 mins of all things Inspiral and obviously there was no way they were going to let the crowd down and not play the big hitters as This Is How It Feels that starts the first crowd sing-along of the evening that’s only topped later on by the finisher Saturn 5.

Johnny (Fucking) Marr

Another Manchester legend follows and I’ll be absolutely honest, usually live he bores me to tears, yeah he’s played on some of the greatest songs to have ever come out of the city but usually with him on stage its just seems a bit all Karaoke to me however I dunno if it was just the setting or the sunshine but I actually enjoyed his set.

Coming on stage to the usual Air Attack siren its into Armatopia before the first of many Smiths tracks to come, the wonderful Panic! GenerateI Generate! and new song Spirit Power and Soul follows that Marr tells people to not panic because it isn’t shit! A beautiful soulful acoustic Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want which was superb, silencing the crowd with its darkness contrasting in the glorious sunshine.

How Soon is Now continued the Smiths onslaught. Back to the originals and final one of the night with Easy Money before its a “covers” finale with Iggy Pop’s The Passenger, Manchester’s disco song aka Electronic’s Getting Away With It (not the last time a song of that title will be heard tonight) before thanking the crowd for “Not throwing shit!” “Always a bonus!” He commented before the typically Marr finisher and Smiths stunner, There Is A Light That Never Goes Out. 

James Orchestrated 

A small concern of mine was how would the crowd react to tonight as it wasn’t a usual James gig and would the crowd try and treat it as such or would it be full of the usual laddish behavior, how would the sound be, will the orchestra come through in an outdoor event well. Opening with Magic bus and it’s initial lyrics “All aboard the Magic Bus, look around become one of us” is quite possibly one of their most accurate statements of a James gig where the love between crowd and band become one.

Thankfully my first concern was allayed well at least in the VIP section as the sound is exceptional and the orchestra are coming through clearly in the mix especially the strings backing Saul’s violin up.

Dust Motes, a favorite of mine and one song rarely played in a normal set but comes to the fore at the orchestrated ones and its a magical journey of voice and instrument. Another fav and again rarely heard these days The Shining follows before a small technical issues where Tim has to swap in ears and he tells Jim to tell a joke which quickly gets passed over to Saul who argues that he’s not telling Tims Penguin joke as its shit.

Medieval kicks things off again and adds incredible visuals to the glorious noise where band members are turned into tapestry in real time on the screens, absolutely no idea how its done but the effect is nothing short of stunning! Laid starts slow as it tends to in the live shows and sees Johnny Marr return to the stage to play with them when its kicked back up to party mode with Tim telling the crowd “Do I need to say his name?”as the crowd chant Johnny Johnny Johnny Fucking Marr “Our hero, one of the people who helped launch us” he continues.

Tomorrow, a live staple and crowd favorite gets an additional boost with the added brass and strings which  All The Colours Of You/Many Faces also take on a different life with the additional orchestra and choir. The Lake, a B-side that never made it onto the album Laid as introduced by Tim as after many upbeat songs its time for a deep cut.

Having been lucky enough to have managed to already see both Orchestra tours I knew this would be something special and indeed it was even though it seemed to have lost a lot of the crowd who were talking through it unlike the time I heard it in York where you could hear a pin drop, shame. 

Hello warms up for the absolute money shot, the highlight of the night and worth the admission price alone as the beautiful connection between Tim and Chloe during it is taken to an even greater level with Shadow Of A Giant from the new and only James album to make  No 1, Yummy.

Already my favourite track off the album even I wasn’t prepared for what was to follow, a perfect symmetry of all that could come together with the people on stage, Joe Duddell’s reworking, the orchestra, Chloe’s opening breath taking, stunning vocal performance stopped everyone in their tracks and the venue suddenly fell silent as people were drawn into what was coming forth in front of them. It’s not often you truly experience moments like this and when it does its something that sticks with you forever, a moment in time you’ll never forget.

“Thank You, some of you got Yummy” Tim quips bringing the mood back into the room. Someones Got It In For Me displays the professionalism of all on stage where it gets interrupted by an issue in the crowd when Tim stops the performance to check if the person is ok. Once the all clear is given he says “Were going to cut in on figure three” giving the all knowing look and its just like pressing play as everyone on stage hits their cue bang on time, incredible!.

Say Something and it’s time for Tim to go walkabout in the crowd, a walk that extends into Born Of Frustration telling people “if they wouldn’t mind not putting their cameras in his face than I might be able to come and swim in the Lytham seas if you’re ready for me” “Half of you look like you’re wanting me to come and swim and the other half are like no fucking way”. By the time Frustration finishes wants to continue further as he’s quite some distance from the stage by this point, “What’s Next?” He asks, Sometimes is the response “Oh, I better better come back for that one!”.

“This one takes a bit more concentration” Tim continues as he returns on stage. Indeed it does as it is quite heavily reworked by Joe and isn’t the usual rip rawer it tends to be live which struggles to get the crowd fired up to take over like they usually do raising the roof whilst doing so, I wouldn’t blame the version for this it just creates a different atmosphere than usual. Folks, the final track on Yummy brings the end to the main set, another unexpected treat and somewhat reworked by Joe as initially it was the only track of the night that threw me initially.

Its now time for the encore that isn’t as it would take a lot of time for everyone to leave and return and typically James they’ll already be overrunning. Sit Down “starts” it off, suppose there’d be a riot if it didn’t appear at some point and the crowd duly sing along. Beautiful Beaches makes an apt appearance given the venue tonight and the night is finished with the glorious and true James anthem Getting Away With it (All Messed Up).

Then It was the thanks time as Tim introduced Orchestra 24, thanked Joe Duddell for arranging these arrangements and The Manchester Inspirational Voices Gospel Choir followed by a “Fuck Off Now” and thank you to the crowd as they finish almost on time, another rare moment in the world of James.

So overall a fantastic evening was had by all, a wonderful evening all round but I have to mention this. By the time you bought the ticket, the VIP Garden upgrade and parking you were looking at around FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY QUID for TWO of you for one evening by the time Ticketmaster had done with you! Is the VIP upgrade worth it? Not really! You’re slightly less cramped in and have quick access to the bar where you’re relieved of seven and a half quid per pint. Better bogs mind that actually had hand sanitizer in them, imagine that eh other festival runners!

Other than that, absolutely no other gripes, lovely festival, decent organisation and would happily return.

Just maybe not in VIP….




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