Friday, May 10, 2013

Live Review - James Blake @ Terminal 5

"Hello," the first thing uttered from James Blake as he took the stage at his second sold-out show at New York's Terminal 5. It was greeting that would have the roar of a crowd make him smile, but its simplicity would echo what was to come. "Hello," it is such a simple phrase but can do so much, like Blake's music, it seems like it is just drum machines, keyboards, and vocals, simple from the start but does so much. Blake, backed by a drummer on an e-kit as well as parts from a traditional set, and a guitarist / programmer, opened with the ambient track "Air & Lack Thereof." It was then into "I Never Learnt To Share," from his flawless 2011 debut, that began to showcase the British singers real tricks. Using tape and electronic loops, coupled with voice manipulators, Blake was the captain of a ship that was blasting off into outer space. With a sub bass that shook everyone in attendance and felt like ignition of thrusters from a rocket, Blake seemed to have everyone in the palm of his hand.

Splitting his set evenly between his two records, his debut and this years magnificent, Overgrown, Blake showcased that with so little you can make so much. Yet, while so much with so little was happening, including a fantastic live show, much of the audience would not reciprocate the feeling. Many seemed to be much for interested in having conversations with the person next to them rather than paying attention to Blake and his band. Some even accused the singer of lip synching, which he addressed by saying, "I am not lip synching, I wish I was," and laughed off the remark before diving into his Feist cover of "Limit To Your Love." Another incident would occur when Blake asked for quiet from the crowd before going into the show stopping "Digital Lion," at which point the sound in the massive room seemed to grow from the stage thanks to some clever sound man and some of the audience getting the hint. In the hour-and-a-half he was on stage, Blake showcased what he could do as a singer, producer, and even entertainer by performing some of the remixes and dance numbers he has with 1-800-Dionsaur, a collective of DJ's and producers that make sublime electronic music together. For his encore Blake returned back from orbit and landed smoothly with his breakthrough single, "The Wilhelm Scream," and his brilliant Joni Mitchell cover of "A Case of You," which he performed without his band and just with his piano and under a spotlight.

For what it is worth, Blake could have been a pop radio sensation making amazing ballads and slow jams like a Miguel or John Legend, yet, he chose to carve his own path. With his R&B / folk-inspired electronica, James Blake has become one of the most interesting and forward thinking stars in music today. His name is something that is going to be around for quite sometime thanks in part for doing something so simple that does so much.

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