James, Royal Albert Hall, London

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The Independent Culture

Did we all sit down? Well, no, everyone stood up – and stayed standing – from the moment lead singer Tim Booth emerged from the back of the Albert Hall singing "Sit Down" before mounting the mixing desk, only to fall backwards on to the floor. Booth accepted the pratfall with dignity, emphasising the line "those who find themselves ridiculous". It was bold of the re-formed Mancunian seven-piece to kick-off with "Sit Down", an anthem that (in my day) encouraged students (usually chemistry) to sit down on nightclub floors. It was a promising start and the intense 50-year-old Booth threw shapes and contorted his stick-thin body like it was 1992. And his voice was clearly in sensationally good shape, relishing the high notes.

James really took off in 1990 with Gold Mother and peaked in 1997 with Whiplash. The indie-rockers broke up in 2001, after the underwhelming Pleased to Meet You, with Booth claiming he wanted to leave while at the top of his game, but to the delight of their many loyal devotees they made a comeback in 2007 with Hey Ma. And here they are again, milking their comeback somewhat, and promoting new material – their seven-song mini-album, The Night Before, which mostly sounds, unfortunately, like filler on a Manic Street Preachers or U2 album. They're a collection of plodding, nonsensical dirges such as "Porcupine" ("You're a skunk and I'm a porcupine") and "Dr Hellier" ("Dr Hellier says that my body's Afghanistan/ and we can't let the Taliban take over and breed).

The crowd are polite; but the dreaded new songs do feel like longueurs. This isn't a Blur-like reunion, the public don't get all they want and there are two gaping holes in their two-hour set. In their 1990s heyday, James had a raft of epic, swirling and quite often saucy pop songs, but the three standouts were "Laid", "Born of Frustration" and "She's a Star", songs as good as anything that came out of the Madchester scene – certainly equal to anything the Stone Roses and Happy Mondays, the two most revered bands of that period, produced.

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