Sci-Fi Grand Slam Summit
April 13th, 2007 – Burbank, CA
He started off the show telling us what a British critic had written about "white boys" who, like him, wanted to sing the blues: "White boys try to sing their way into the blues. Black boys try to sing their way out of it." And proceeded then to start the show with, of course a bit of the blues. Here’s the blow-by-blow playlist and what he said (or didn’t say) about the songs:
The Truth is a Heavy Stone – Blues-ish number "about being an American these days." Cool, solid performance here.
No Promises – After dating for a while and realizing things were not like he’d like them to be, he wrote this one about "the person I hoped to be."
Fall of Night – He introduced the song as "what happens when you’re jealous of your lover and then you realize you’re very wrong about that."
Smile – "This is a song about the beginning of the relationship, when everything’s fine and there are no problems."
Civilized Man – For this song, he went a bit deeper into its backstory. While filming "Cool Money" in Canada, James was faced with an Assistant Director that was a real jerk, yelling at the actors, treating people badly, etc. and making his life on set a living hell. James felt like strangling him daily, but he didn’t. Later on, it was found out the person had a drug problem, and so James wrote this song about him.
White Hot Girls – “It’s the culmination of my wisdom about dating.”
Like a Waterfall – "This is the song you write after you’ve written "Fall of Night" and you realize how wrong you were about things, and you have to make up for it."
This Town – James drew inspiration for this song from those Shakespearean plays where the girl is in love with a boy, but not the boy that loves her and so it’s all dramatic and you basically want what you can’t have, so he wrote this from the unloved guy’s point of view.
When We Dance Slow – "I don’t have much to say about this song, except maybe it’s about getting in my truck, driving really fast and dancing with a very pretty girl." He started having problems with his monitor around this time (he couldn’t hear his guitar well).
Up On Me – "A song you write when you’re so depressed about something that not even your friends want to hear about it."
For What I Need – Again, self-explanatory.
Finer Than Gold – He’d bought a gold necklace for his girlfriend’s birthday, forgetting that gold looks really bad on her, completely. It just doesn’t suit her at all, so as an apology he wrote this song for her birthday.
Louise – "This song goes out to Louise in London, who got us to and fro and made an adventure out of every day."
Merced Track Meet – "I guess I’m really uncomfortable having money. Does this mean I was happier when I was poor? So I fantasize a lot about how things would be if I had money, and that’s what this song is about."
Bad – He started to tell us this story about when you suddenly believe you’re a big star, and someone just brings you back down to earth saying "no" and stopped saying, "I can’t really tell you guys about that." He then said the song was "self-explanatory."
Angel – "This is a song about a girl I was with who just couldn’t see how great she was, and I wished he could just see herself the way I did for an hour."
All That She Wanted – It was presented as "another ‘Patricia, please don’t break up with me’ song."
Every Man Thinks God Is On His Side – A song brought to him by the producer of his previous album.
Long Time – "This is another one of those ‘you hurt me so damn much, I’m trying to get out of it’ songs."
Goodbye – self-explanatory
At this point, without even leaving the stage, James announced he was going to play his encore. When we started hooting and hollering about that, he said that it makes sense to leave the stage when you’re in a band, but that when there are just two people on stage, it’s kinda lame, and said his guest guitarist wanted to do it. So we clapped and cheered in agreement, and at that point James turned heel and left the stage. We started chanting "Encore! Encore!" and he came back and proceeded to put an over the top "You like me! You really like me!" performance that was very funny and cute. And then he said, "I really don’t have anything prepared!"
The Birth of the Blues – James started out talking about blues pioneer Robert Johnson, whom legend tells sold his soul to the devil at the crossroads to learn to play the blues. This was not so, as we has taught by another great bluesman whose name James couldn’t remember (much to his embarrassment at the time, which led to laughter on part of everybody, including himself.) James explained that the "sold his soul to the devil" thing was just a marketing tool, "because the blues comes from pain and slavery, and only out of so much pain can such beauty come out."
Poor Robyn – A song "about an ex-girlfriend who started to call me on the phone a lot, sometimes several times a day… and she ended up getting $500 out of the whole deal, and I never heard from her again."
London City – "Sometimes I think I am this great boyfriend, sensitive, who writes songs, and then I act like a dick. Something had happened at the time while I was visiting my girlfriend in Germany, and I was being a dick, and then went to London to do a show, and I was very adamantly trying to get her to come to London to see me to apologize… and I wrote this song, and she came."
Late Night Drive – No explanation for this one, he just said he was "throwing caution to the wind."
Baby Blue – This was the last song of the evening, a Keb Mo’ cover he said he’d been singing to his kids since they were 0. It’s a lullaby, and he told us that usually, by the time he gets to the second verse, there’s much yawning and sometimes they’re out cold. He was funny about it for, when he got to the second verse, he "yawned" like little kids do, much to the audience’s delight.
All in all it was a great show, very solid. J
ames has come very far in his guitar playing and his singing (even if he said he’d rehearsed like a maniac for the event.) Our next concert review will be for the shows he’s doing in New York in June. Stay tuned.
(Special thanks to madbrilliant at http://www.jaded-paradise.net/lights/ for her pictures)