George & James

Today is George’s birthday. He’s my six-years-younger little brother. Gotta love him.

This is (one of the many reasons) why:

I’ve been waiting for about 20 years to see James. A few months ago Nitram heard about James tickets before I did, and soon as he told me I bought two for us. Then I tried to forget about it because every time I thought about it, I’d get severe butterflies. After all, knowing that you’re going to soon realize a dream 20 years in the making is no small thing.

Luckily, the concert fell on the week Nitram was on vacation, a Tuesday night. Monday morning, he wasn’t feeling too good at all (in the end — no pun intended — pretty much his whole vacation week was filled with rain and four days of stomach bug). Tuesday morning was no different. Tuesday afternoon: “Maybe you’d better call George, see if he can go with you…” Well, by then, I was prepared to take the train into the city by myself, and give the other ticket to some lucky person outside Webster Hall. But I called George anyway, emphasizing that he didn’t have to go, just that if he wanted to, I had an extra ticket… and that it was likely we wouldn’t get back home til about 2 AM (he has to get up for work at 6 AM).

Leave it to my little brother not to let his big sister go into the Big Bad City on her own (I’m just a country mouse). And he’s not even a James fan. All he really knows of James is what he hears when he’s here (I play them a lot).

We were about six people back, center left, and by not even halfway through the concert, we were only three back and center. Weird how the crowd just gradually shifts and you don’t realize it as it’s happening.

Tim Booth of James

The way James opened the show was surprising and wonderful to me: Larry and Tim appearing in a corner of the balcony, playing “Sit Down.” And the rest of the band sneaking onstage behind us, as everyone had turned to the back of the theater to watch Larry and Tim. Something made me turn back to the stage and there they were: Andy, Jim, Saul, Dave, Mark. The people in front of me seemed momentarily shocked: Why is this person facing the wrong way? But the rest of the band was onstage! That’s why! It was fantastic!

A highlight of the concert for me was that Andy was there. Made my day. Well, if he would have worn one of his gowns it would have made my year, but being that close to him, hearing the trumpet soar and glide and lilt… seeing the joy and love in his face — how could that not make my day?

James played on the second level of the Webster, and George told me later he was about ready to yank me out of there and leave because the floor was bowing so much. When the crowd would jump and dance, the floor was like a trampoline, and I could feel it moving under my feet. Even when we weren’t jumping, we were still going up and down, up and down, from the weight of the crowd around us. Reminded both me and George of the 1999 New Year’s Eve party at Neal‘s, my former downstairs neighbor in this old Victorian house we rented. The floor just about gave way and George and Nitram and Steve and a few others had to go into the basement and shore it up with beams and columns and whatever they could get their hands on.

The concert well met the 20 years of waiting. The end of the show was as unusual to me as the beginning, a surprise that “Sometimes” was the song that “Sit Down” used to be: the crowd-singing, crowd-involving, crowd/James/love-exchanging finale. All of us singing a cappella to the band, “Sometimes, when I look into your eyes, I can see your soul…” Do I even need to try to explain that? Even if you’re not a James fan, take those lyrics and imagine, and you’ll see.

A funny and small highlight of the show was at the end, before the encore: Larry was doing his photographing the crowd thing, grinning with delight while the rest of the band was taking bows and thanking back at us — then they left the stage, and Larry was still there with his camera, still grinning, loving the crowd. Suddenly he realized he was alone onstage, did a kind of double-take, his grin getting bigger and slightly sheepish too, and he said something like, “Ooh — where’d they all go?” and ran offstage looking silly in the most appealing way. So spontaneous and endearing.

So thanks to George, I didn’t have to go to the Big Bad City all alone to see James. That makes it all the more memorable.

Not the most impressive first blog post ever, but definitely the Best Brother Ever.

Photo Credits:
Basement self portrait, by George
Tim Booth of James, by George
Andy Diagram of James, by me

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