James Blake played his first show on American soil at Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg back in March of 2011, just a few weeks after the release of his self-titled debut. At that concert, Blake’s set-list consisted almost entirely of tracks off of his recently released CD; showing that he has the ability to bring to life both the chaos and beauty from his recordings. From the beginning, Blake had a devout following eager to hear his new material. Last night, he was back in Brooklyn, once again debuting new material to the New York crowd.
Blake’s set kicked off with one of his earliest singles, “Air and Lack Thereof.” This track, released in 2009, quickly got the attention of BBC’s Radio 1 where it garnered repeated play and helped introduce the world to James Blake and his unique style. The use of synthesizers, heavy bass, and loops are in this song are all a signature of his sound but the full range of his vocal abilities wasn’t truly exposed until his debut CD. The next track that was played in the set, “I Never Learnt To Share,” reveals how much emotion and power can travel through his voice. A simple phrase is repeated throughout the extent of this song, which continues to build and build into a booming crescendo along with the rhythm.
James Blake’s Limit To Your Love
It was after the second song when there was a slight technical glitch which had to be fixed and James Blake finally addressed the crowd. “Now might be a good time to tell you that the album’s nearly done, the new one. This is the first time we’ve played any of it to anybody in America,” said Blake before launching into the first of several new songs of the evening with “We Are Going Down To The Pub.” Despite being unfamiliar with the new material, the crowd showed a tremendous amount of enthusiasm as the anticipation for the new CD began to build.
From there, Blake went back to some of his more recognizable songs; first with the two-part “Lindisfarne I & II,” and then “Limit To Your Love,” the latter of which shook the foundations of the building with bass. The rest of the set was composed of a pretty even mix of old and new with the highlights being “CMYK” and “Wilhelm Scream;” both tracks that start small and wind up taking over the entire venue with light and sound. The sold-out crowd was begging for more as the band walked off the stage.
Thankfully, Blake obliged and came out for an extended encore opening up with “Anti-War Dub.” This Digital Mystikz cover really shows us Blake’s roots in dub-step and how much he could excel with some tailor-made dance floor beats. After that almost entirely instrumental jam, another new track was introduced to us. “Retrograde” begins with Blake creating a humming loop and a clapping beat building around it. This song builds masterfully and completely absorbed the crowd. If this is what’s to come from his forthcoming album, than we can already label it as one of 2013’s standouts. Blake’s band-mates exited the stage after “Retrograde” leaving Blake alone in the spotlight as he played the opening notes to Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You,” a song which much like Feist’s “Limit to Your Love,” has become an integral part of Blake’s catalog and perfectly harnesses his abilities.
Other than a show at Bowery Ballroom the following night, there are no more opportunities to see James Blake live in 2012. However, if this show was any indication, we have a whole lot to look forward to from him next year. Be sure to check out some photos from the evening as well as a setlist below!
Words and photos byJesse Zryb
OurVinyl | Senior Writer
James Blake’s Retrograde (Live)
Music Hall of Williamsburg – Brooklyn, NY 12/11/2012
Air and Lack Thereof
I Never Learnt To Share
We Are Going Down To The Pub
Lindisfarne I & II
Limit To Your Love
Our Love Comes Back
Every Day I Ran
The Wilhelm Scream
A Case Of You