GIG REVIEW: James Bourne

ACTS: James Bourne, Danny Gruff, Portia Conn
VENUE: O2 Academy2, Islington
DATE: March 17th 2012

The O2 Academy2 in Islington, is part of the N1 centre and is therefore a part of an open ended shopping centre. Right by the cinema, it is a bit out of the way and after almost walking into a Rise To Remain gig (in which I REALLY wouldn’t have fitted in), I was told that James Bourne, a great love of my pre-teen years, would be playing upstairs.

While queuing, The Famous Class, who supported MEST handed out flyers with their information on. I said that I’d been at the MEST gig and they mentioned their headline show at O2 Academy2 on April 10th. They are an awesome pop punk group, who put a refreshing spin on cover songs, so as I mentioned before, they are worth checking out, if you’re into pop punk.

The crowd were mainly female, aging from around 15 to mid 20s with a fair few middle aged women there. As I got a drink, a guy stepped onto the stage with an acoustic guitar and announced that his name was Danny Gruff. The unsigned Wrexham singer entertained us for about half an hour with his angry but hilarious lyrics as well as throwing in a few contextual comments about each song. For example, his song Wanderlust is about “women running away from him” and indeed it is a beautiful ballad that I think so many of us can relate to in some way. He also treated us to a very special version of the iconic Michael Jackson song, Black and White with the rap! Although he’s been playing solo for around four years, he plays with his band The Peacemakers and their EP Friends/Love/Drink is available online. Check them out on YouTube and here

Up next came the soulful Portia Conn who is currently writing and recording her debut album, explaining her absence from the live scene for two years. However, she serenaded the crowd with a voice that stopped all conversation and lit up the room. Her tracks are simple and the focus is on the unique quality to her voice with no distractions from other sounds. She comes across as a Gabriella Cilmi-a-like and her debut single I Don’t Care fits nicely into the regular run-of-the-mill female popstar niche. However, its B-side Sandwich Shop is captivating and shows the very best of what this girl can do. She can definitely hold an audience with her voice and her YouTube is full of acoustic covers, which just give you a little taste of the Stratford-upon-Avon beauty’s work.

When James finally arrived, he came on to screams and cheers wearing a huge smile. The ex-Busted guitarist appeared to be genuinely amazed that he’d managed to sell out the show and to say, he looked thrilled was a huge understatement. He opened with Space Travellers from his Future Boy album, as a nod to his next album also called Space Travellers. The album will be launched via a Facebook game, in which players can unlock tracks one by one. Revolutionary or what?!

Standing in front of his brothers, I was fairly near the front but the lighting prevented me getting a decent picture.

His rendition of new track Beautiful Girls Are The Loneliest rippled round the room, sending each and every female into a love-drunk haze. The Busted acoustic classic Meet You There was met by massive cheers and James was able to take a break from singing and let us sing the lyrics for him.

The songs Everything I Knew, which James admitted had been a real crowd pleaser across the tour, got a similar reception, as did Thunderbirds Are Go. He went on to play my favourite Busted tracks Psycho Girl and Loser Kid, both of which are ideal for acoustic guitar. By nature, Loser Kid gives way to Busted’s debut single What I Go To School For. Addressing Twitter comments about a Busted reunion, he said “it’s already happening in my head”.

The gig wasn’t just a reminisce about his Busted days. He also mentioned that he “helped a kid called Tom start a band” and then began playing Memory Lane from McFly’s second album, Wonderland. The huge McFly single Obviously was played and there was also a nod to Son of Dork with his performance of Sick. He even played a few rarely heard tracks such as We’re Not Alone from the film Alien Autopsy with Ant and Dec. James even gained an encore and he returned to play Forever is Over, which he penned for The Saturdays, which in all honesty was a little disappointing and felt a little out of place with the rest of the show. The majority of the crowd seemed to feel the same and felt a little confused as to why he’d left the song till the encore. However, he did leave us all on a high by concluding with Year 3000, which is still the most iconic Busted track before reminding us all that the Space Travellers Facebook game is open on May 3rd.

All in all, the night proved to me that James can still play shows like he could in the Busted days. For me, it was an awesome way of casting my mind back to being thirteen and just hearing all the songs that I loved back then performed live now. His new songs are different to his pop-punk roots but he’s moving with the times and hopefully he’ll start getting critical attention for his new Future Boy material.

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