Entering the Bridgewater Hall expectations feel high for James performing with Orchestra Of The Swan and The Manchester Consort Choir. Hang on is that someone actually wearing a (non-ironic) dickie bow? This isn’t James’ usual venue of choice; a sign at the bar confirms this: “Please refrain from leaving drinks on the piano.” Golly, I’m feeling a few notches posher than usual. Heading into the auditorium (the acoustics are amazing daarling) there’s a fair few bald headed sightings. The gig programme looks like a prospectus for the Royal College of Music, close up instrument shots and talk of key settings for songs. A lot to live up to already.

The orchestra is tuning. Baton aloft the conductor cues the main attraction. James come on stage and Tim Booth looks like a cross between Salavdor Dali and a circus ring master. Donned in baggy pinstripe pants, white shirt and a up curled ‘tash to finish things off, the orchestra dash into “Charge of the Light Brigade” as Tim’s arms instruct. He stands on stage as a relaxed front man, and we know we’re in good hands as he tells us “We’re starting slow tonight, enjoy.” Early on the combined sound of James, orchestra and choir create a musically rich atmosphere. There’s going to be depth and playfulness displayed here tonight.

The opener draws us in, with Mr Booths recognisably falsetto sound set against a backdrop of strings and choral harmonies. We know we’re in for no ordinary James gig. “Timbo!” and “Boothy” shouts from above bring me back down to earth and make The Bridgewater feel its host to a livelier crowd than average. A few songs in and everyone on stage are hitting their stride. The sound’s rich with lots of light and shade – gentle, classically trained angelic notes blend really well with Tim’s vocals. Neither feels shown up by classical prowess or indie showmanship.

Looking around the audience are attentive, almost spellbound. The atmosphere is broken by an unexpected announcement from the front man: “I know you won’t take me seriously but I’ve got a stalker (whistles from the circle) No not that kind – I like them! It’s someone who wants to cause me harm. If you see anyone with these homemade posters please report them to the police” Laughter and heckle come back “I’m here!” The culprit’s giveaway trait is atrocious spelling apparently. Non-plussed and dancing away they carry on with ‘We’re Going to Miss You’ We’re now on a singles tour of some really cracking tunes: ‘She’s a star,’ ‘Hey Ma,’ and ‘Getting Away With It.’

James’ experience and longevity on the music scene is getting seriously reinforced. Wearing their heart on their sleeves, tracks are coming out from all different albums. In spite of some of the heavily Levellers-esque songs thrown in, we’re experiencing a band that has a solid and rounded progression across three decades. After a brief interval the second half kicks in with a lot more punch. Feistier and more fun than the first. The shackles are off the crowd more too, with a few punters getting up to dance. There’s a couple of songs thrown in here that seem to side step the rest of the set list… in one moment everything’s bathed in green light and we’re going into something Rocky Horror-esque.

The stand out moments in the second half are Mr Booth’s audience serenades, coming out directly into the crowd to dance with. The piece de resistance is ‘Sometimes,’ everyone’s up on their feet dancing and adding to the choir’s volume. The closing curtain comes in the form of a Consort Choir versus Manchester sing off. ‘When I look into your eyes I swear I see a soul’ gets blasted between the classically trained ensemble and the crowd’s anarchic rabble. Immense, intense and a memorable night for the refined and the rabble alike.

I'm an indie kid at heart, with a soft spot for thoughtful electronica and a guilty love of pure pop. A break up in the early noughties with a foppish haired 'all about the guitars' boy caused my musical path to diverge out towards Mr Scruff, Ministry of Sound and dance pleasures beyond. Highlights from this year's musical calendar include Sounds From the Other City, Badly Drawn Boy at the Ten album launch, Bjork at MI and when Elbow came home.I design and illustrate so I'm continually perfecting the ultimate work soundtrack to get ideas going: daytime People I'd still like to see: Imogen Heap, Jason Mraz, Brett Anderson and Ghostpoet.Follow me on Twiiter - http://twitter.com/#!/rachaelkearney