Thousands of fans watched James headline a full day of music at Darlington Arena on Saturday night. For Andrew White, it was a long time coming.

In 1988, I bought a ticket to see one of my favourite bands, James, in concert - little did I know, it would take another 35 years for me to actually see them perform.

Back then I was a student at Leicester University who had just discovered this new, quirky indie band, James.

When I heard they had been booked to play at the university's student union, I went straight to the box office to pick up a ticket - I think it must have cost £7 or £8, which was the going rate for concerts at that time.

The Northern Echo: Thousands of fans turned out at the Darlington Arena to watch James headline a concert, which also included performances by Maximo Park and EditorsThousands of fans turned out at the Darlington Arena to watch James headline a concert, which also included performances by Maximo Park and Editors (Image: ADAM KENNEDY)

I loved the songs on 'Strip-mine', their newly released second album, especially 'What For' - still one of my favourite James tracks - and was just acquainting myself with their debut effort, 'Stutter'.

This, for me, was going to be the highlight of the concert season.

Sadly, it wasn't to be as the band cancelled the gig - from memory, I think it was because enigmatic lead singer Tim Booth had a throat infection.

I was disappointed, but not devastated - after all, I'd surely have further opportunities to see them.

But it just didn't happen.

Over the years, I bought the albums - 'Gold Mother', 'Millionares' and 'Pleased to Meet You' are particular favourites - and followed the band through various ups and downs.

But for various reasons I just never got to see them play live.

The nearest I got was when they headlined at the Hardwick Festival, near Sedgefield, a few years ago. But the small matter of a clash with my own wedding day meant that was never really going to happen.

A side note here: James did get to play a part at my wedding as our first dance was to one of their songs - Just Like Fred Astaire.

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However, it seemed like seeing them live was never going to happen.

However, fate took a hand, and when James were announced at the headline act for a concert at the Darlington Arena I seized my opportunity and bought tickets for myself and my wife.

And what a day it was.

We arrived in time to see Maximo Park, who were terrific - especially their charismatic frontman, Billingham-born Paul Smith, who was clearly revelling the chance to perform in front of his 'home' fans. His mum and dad were in the crowd and they got an enthusiastic wave from the fans.

Next up were indie-rock band Editors. This is right up my street and the teenage me would definitely have approved of their dark guitar sound. Absolutely superb.

Then it was the main dish of the day as James took to the stage to rapturous applause.

The Northern Echo: Tim Booth and James were on top form at the Darlington Arena on Saturday nightTim Booth and James were on top form at the Darlington Arena on Saturday night (Image: ADAM KENNEDY)

They have long had a reputation as one of the best live acts around and you could sense right from the opening song, 'Sound', that this is a band who knows their stuff.

Tim Booth oozes charisma. He's not a frontman who engages in much verbal banter with the crowd, but he doesn't need to - he has something intangible, a presence, which the crowd feeds off with gusto.

There was the odd technical hitch - 'Born of Frustration' replacing whatever tune was intended when something went wrong. It didn't matter, the crowd were prepared to forgive anything.

Booth was at his magnetic best when the climbed down from the stage and into the crowd for 'Come Home', walking among the faithful and rising above them by climbing onto a fence to deliver a tour de force vocal. It was spine-tingling stuff.

Other standouts for me included 'She's A Star', 'Say Something' and, of course, the anthemic 'Sit Down', which had the adoring fans in full voice.

There wasn't an encore as such, Booth telling the crowd they were just going to continue playing songs, but the band - at the top of their game - built to a rousing climax, with 'Getting Away With It (All Messed Up)', 'Sometimes' and 'Laid' completing a memorable evening.

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This was a truly magnificent concert and one that will live long in the memory - not just for me, but, I suspect, for everyone present.

I can't believe it took me 35 years to actually see one of my favourite bands play live.

Was it worth the wait? You bet it was.