Review by Thomas Frodsham
It’s only been two years since James Blake released his debut self titled album, which went on to be nominated for the 2011 Mercury Prize, and he has already established himself as a prodigious talent. Also nominated for a Brit Award and Ivor Novello song-writing gong, Blake is a British artist that is lucky enough to excel as a musician, singer, producer and performer. And still only 24!
I had only heard a small amount of his material before tonight’s gig, most notably ‘Limit To Your Love’. I feel lucky that I went to the show without preconceptions, especially as Blake blew the roof off with practically every song. Electronica, Soul, dub step, heavy bass and lingering, haunting vocals are the best words to describe this James Blake gig. Songs you wouldn’t normally dance to but you find that you are. On songs such as ‘Lindisfarne’ his lyrics are intense and dark, whereas his producing talents take a different, more up tempo direction as demonstrated on his early EP’s ‘CMYK’ and ‘The Bells Sketch’.
The crowd was a mixed bunch of ages but mainly students – we were on Oxford Road after all – who squeezed into the intimate venue. A perfect venue to really showcase Blake’s distinct sound and if it were to be played in a larger venue, I think the power of each track may be slightly lost.
Blake played a set featuring tracks from nearly all his releases, including early tracks off the ‘CMYK’ EP, his debut album and his latest record ‘Overgrown’ which was only released last week. Highlights performed at the gig were ‘CMYK’ (which samples 90’s RnB track ‘Caught Out There’ by Kelis), ‘Voyeur’, ‘Limit to your Love’ and latest single (and my favourite) ‘Retrograde’.
It’s hard not to get entranced by Blake’s lyrics and powerful bass; he uses his voice as an instrument in a similar way to that of Antony Hegarty from Antony and the Johnsons.
Blake gave the crowd exactly what they wanted; he has a rapport with his eager fans and doesn’t play for himself like some can. He even sang the odd request and came out for an irresistible encore to an audience who lapped up every beat.
James Blake performed at Manchester Academy 2 on Wednesday 10th April 2013. His new album ‘Overgrown’ was released on the 8th April.