Reviewed: James @ Electric Ballroom, London

The sleepless nights. The hope. The beautiful thing with any new infatuation is that 3am wakefulness of the wonderings, of the feelings that, if things went your way and luck was on your side, this could (whisper it) be all you dreamed it could be.

This could just change your life.

James launched new album La Petite Mort with an intimate gig at the legendary Electric Ballroom in Camden. Set veterans that they are (they never play the same set twice so you never know what’s coming next) they wisely stay clear of playing a whole host of new material in a row, instead peppering the set with hits including ‘Johnny Yen’, ‘Come Home’, ‘Waltzing Along’, ‘Laid’ the welcome return of ‘Say Something’ and arguably set highlight ‘Tomorrow’. But it was the new songs that this hardcore audience had come to see.

La Petite Mort has been a long time in the breeding. Six years since comeback LPHey Ma, and four since the dual mini-albums The Morning After and The Night Before, there was a fair amount of pressure on the band to stand up and be counted. To prove to themselves what all their fans already know; that they are one of the most underrated British songwriters of their generation. From the new songs played tonight, the potential is huge.

First aired throughout the April 2013 tour, ‘Interrogation’ proves itself worthy of the hype. It showcases James’ songwriting at its very best – laced, like all great James songs, with Jim Gleenie’s thumping bass and featuring starring roles from Violin/Guitar virtuoso Saul Davies and slide man Larry Gott.

‘Quicken The Dead’, ‘Bitter Virtue’ and ‘All I’m Saying’ follow a similar breath-taking model as ‘Interrogation’, and while ‘Curse Curse’, ‘Frozen Britain’ and the intoxicatingly poetic single ‘Moving On’ sit at the more poppy end of the James spectrum, you feel that, once heard on record, they have the potential to break up the heartache of the other tracks quite beautifully.

La Petite is an album inspired by the death of lead singer Tim Booth’s mother and another close friend. But throughout tonight, just as on Moving On, live it feels like watching a reawakening of a band reconnecting with what they knew they have always held in their hands.

What the new James album holds in store will be revealed at the start of June. But whatever the old mystical conjurer has dreamed up he won’t keep that most teasing of human emotions, hope, at bay. Of the songs played live tonight La Petite Mort has the potential to be the James album we always wanted them to make. Let’s hope that hope doesn’t let us down.

La Petite Mort is out 2 June 2014 and the band tour the UK this autumn. You can buy tickets for the tour and order a copy of the album here.