At 10:15pm this past Tuesday night, James Blake - indie rock’s leading man of 2011 – took the stage, marking his first show on American soil in quite sometime. And thus began his intimate set at the Brooklyn’s Music Hall Of Williamsburg. With one of last year’s best albums and several EPs, the London native had more than enough material to entertain the 500 lucky attendees for an hour-and-a-half, which included five tracks that will appear on his sophomore record, which he explained is almost finished(!!).
I’ve heard mixed reviews about Blake‘s live shows, as I see how he can be seen as sort of a two-trick pony: the majority of his songs are either soulful with minimalist production à la “The Wilhelm Scream” or post-dubstep production in a similar vein to “CMYK”. Even so, these tricks work especially well for him and helped create an exceptional live performance.
James Blake‘s voice was spot-on for the entirety of the show, as he sounded as good as – if not better than – on record, translating especially well live – especially on tracks like his renowned cover of Feist‘s “A Limit To Your Love”. And between his keyboards/synthesizers/sampling, as well as the help from his small live band, consisting of a keyboardist/guitarist and drummer, the production sounded absolutely massive live: bone-rattling bass and all. I find it magnificent when electronic music can be created this tightly in a live setting. And who knew that “CMYK” wasn’t entirely made of samples? I sure didn’t. His (greatly distorted) vocals on that track caught me by surprise. The man can do it all, hey?
And then there were the new tracks, which were absolutely mesmerizing. As I’ve mentioned, James Blake can be seen as a two-trick pony, which he continues to do for the new tracks, but hey, why fix something that isn’t broken? After mentioning that this was America’s first taste of the new record (having only performed them before in London), he dove into “We Are Going Down T’Pub”, “Our Love Comes Back”, “Everyday I Ran”, “Overgrown”, and “Retrograde” (as seen on the setlist), all of which combined his beautiful, R&B-tinged vocals with some more of that bass-heavy production that we’ve all grown to know and love. Although admittedly a bit nervous at first, James Blake and his new tracks received constant cheering and accolades from the packed audience.
And then there was the encore, which ended in a stripped down (ie sans backing band) version of his beautiful cover of Joni Mitchell‘s “A Case Of You”, which resulted in an extremely emotional and intimate performance. And when moved to his falsetto… swoon. Absolutely gorgeous. He just has this way of making everything sound so intimate and personal that’s unbeatable.
Due to the gorgeous nature of his new tracks, I wouldn’t be surprised if he has similar lovely gems tucked away for the new album, and I also wouldn’t be surprised if 2013 becomes another massive year for Mr. James Blake.
Check below for fan videos of two of his new songs as performed in London, along with some more photos.