Most of my readers know from my glowing reviews of his output that I love Electronic/Soul Star James Blake. And when I found out he was on tour (and the ticket prices were affordable) I couldn’t wait to get a taste of what he could deliver live. I caught the second of two New York shows and I have to say, while he seemed very nonchalant and humble during his performance he still managed to Own it and rock the crowd the entire night.
Blake is clearly not trying to be a dynamic performer or even a charismatic celebrity, he just comes on stage to play the music that he loves. He walked out on stage like he was just walking to his local grocery store, and there was very minimal interaction with the crowd or any sort of stage presence. However the point was to stand up and enjoy his music live. I was a little curious how his very electronic based music would translate on stage, and I was actually surprised to see he had a drummer and guitarist accompanying him, but it all made for a very satisfying music experience.
The media-proclaimed “Prince of Dubstep” opened the show with “I Never Learnt To Share” where he displayed some Live vocal layering techniques. The rest of the show he mainly performed the tracks from his debut album and his recent “Overgrown” album (which has grown on me substantially), with a few of his more obscure songs from his independently released EP’s. His material is mostly lower tempo, but with amazing musical details that came through very vividly in the small setting of Terminal 5. The set was overall groovy, and the crowd swayed and waved with the beat. At one point, while he was performing “Voyeur” he really turned it up, with an extended keyboard groove section he managed to make the song almost a club synth stomper. That was the stand out performance for me just because he made something new out of a song I already loved (and my damn iPhone wouldn’t allow me to record that portion of the show which irked my nerves).
The entire show was definitely satisfactory, and I lost it on some of my favorite songs like “To the Last”, “Digital Lion” (his drummer was amazing during his solo on this song), “Limit to Your Love”, “The Wilhelm Scream” and “Life Round Here”. Honestly there wasn’t a boring moment in the show, but I most enjoyed seeing James really get into the groove at his keyboard, rocking his head up and down and really enjoying the moment.
As a minor complaint or criticism, it seemed like at certain points Blake and company would lose the melody of certain songs and it would take just a minute for them to get back on track. Also, his singing was definitely good, but I almost expected that soul that’s found on his recordings to elevate live. It didn’t really, although his vocals were passable there were moments of audible straining and just not quite hitting the notes like they should have been hit.
Overall, we’re not asking him to be the next Marvin Gaye and we don’t expect him to be the next Usher performance wise either. We fans respect him for the minimal productions and the fact that he’s just a normal guy doing what he loves. And after seeing him live, I do have more respect for him for maintaining who he is as an artist and not compromising to become anything bigger or flashier.
Check out this video I uploaded to YouTube. It’s not the entire concert, like I said before my iPhone camera was being a pain and near the end of the show it just wouldn’t record. However I decided to piece together the videos I did have, so what you will see are snippets of some of my favorite songs.