All you need is a Cynical Skin

Martin James – Kulturzentrum Lagerhaus, Bremen; February 2nd 2012

Just before this tour started it got really cold in Germany (-12 to –17 degrees) and I was not looking forward to spending much time waiting in the cold. Then again I figured nobody else might either. I had been counting down to this tour since Christmas, but I didn’t feel any excitement until I was actually on the train and knew I was going there.

Arrived in Bremen at 5:15 p.m., found the way to the hostel where A. was already waiting. We stayed there until 6:30 p.m, arrived at the venue 15 minutes later. Just two other fans were there already and luckily we could wait inside. More people came, clearly divided into Jim Kroft fans and Martin and James fans. Neither group could really figure out the other.

We got in, took our spots in front row and looked around a bit worriedly – there were hardly any people. The stage was decorated with living room lamps and Christmas lights. It looked pretty and created a nice atmosphere. Seems like they’d really love to do a tour of everyone’s living rooms. 😉

But before we got to enjoy Martin and James we had to listen to Jim Kroft. I had liked many of his songs on youTube and thought it would be fun listening to him, but he didn’t work for me at all. A few of the songs were OK, but mostly I found him boring. He was also screaming into the microphone more often than singing and had no charisma whatsoever. I felt a bit sorry for him even, because A. and I were standing there with our arms crossed, obviously not enjoying his set. I could not help it though, his music just didn’t do anything for me.

Finally, about 15 minutes after 9:00 p.m. Martin and James walked on stage. A. and others told me the had been extremely nervous the previous day in Hamburg, but this night it was their usual “a bit nervous but mostly OK” behavior. They had brought Lucas, who had already supported them in May last year., to play stand up bass and the piano occasionally. No drummer this time, they took care of that on their own with an additional drum on stage.

Before Lucas came out, they played a few songs on their own, starting with the tried and tested combination of ‘She’s light guiding’, and ‘Turn it up’, only with ‘Maybe it’s time in the middle’. I felt a smile spreading on my face as soon as they started singing. I didn’t take long for me to fall into the music and I enjoyed singing along. .

At that point the setlist indicated “Here comes Lucas”. I loved that he was playing stand-up bass instead of the regular electric one. It suited the music well and the one drum gave an additional kick when needed. As usual they were very absorbed in their music, closing their eyes a lot, but they also made some conversation, talking about new songs, Nashville, Scottland’s possible independence and  – of course – Becks beer. At one point James even smiled at us.

They warmed us up some more with ‘Wheels’ and ‘Wrong Directions’ then threw in ‘One way forward’ as a first song that was new to many people. This was the first highlight to me. The song made me think of the great video A. had made o illustrate and I could not help but be amused. I also finally remembered the lyrics. An amazing version of ‘You’re my window’ followed right after. They had rearranged it and it became more powerful.

‘I was blind’, ‘Bad Dream’ and ‘Live Wires’ followed before they put more new songs in the mix. I liked them all, but could not figure out much of the lyrics. ‘Cynical Skin’ is really great and I also enjoyed ‘The Rope’ and ‘Hard to cry’ a lot. They are all more upbeat, at least music-wise. ‘Love’s not a fight’ is still beautiful and it still hurts. The last new song was the slower ‘Life’s a show’ that felt weakest to me, because the music didn’t immediately grab me. I’ll reserve judgement untilI understand the lyrics though.

They played a good mixture of new and old songs, slow and fast. The main set ended with ‘Crashing into Love’ and everyone singing along. We had to clap and yell for a bit to make them come back, but then got three more songs: ‘Somebody’, ‘With you’ and finally ‘I have to fall’, with Jim Kroft guesting, but refusing to sing. Again they had ‘With you’ listed as ‘Walz’ on the setlist and explained they didn’t remember why they had called it that, asking if we had any suggestions for a name. Some time this tour I need to tell them that the song already has a name. 😉

With ‘I have to Fall’ it ended. It was all wonderful and elating. A. and I stayed and had a nice chat with first James and later Martin. We waited until most others were gone, James came over to talk but Martin didn’t, so we ended up back in front of the stage where they were packing their things and got to witness a funny conversation with a rather drunk girl who didn’t speak English but tried to invite them to a pub down the road. We said goodbye to the guys and left.

First concert down, six to go. Next stop: Cologne.

She’s light guiding
Maybe it’s time
Turn it up

Wrong directions
One way forward
You’re a window
I was blind
Bad Dream
Live Wires
Love’s not a Fight
Cynical Skin
Hard to cry
Little bits of Light
Life’s a Show
The Rope
All over the News
Crashing into Love

I have to fall


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