Lecture about medical screening, classical music concert and course on humanism. December at Conway Hall has contained a mixture of events. So is it odd that we’re here to see James Blake? Joining the queue alongside a gift shop the venue definitely appears out of place for tonight, the second in a run of performances showcasing bass-strong electronic music from the next album.
Before last night’s gig at Thekla, Bristol, it had been over a year since Blake, Rob “Airhead” McAndrews (guitar/sampler) and Ben Assiter (drums) had played live in the UK. Seemingly the trio have been busy plotting their next move. Tonight the set contains five new songs titled ‘Our Love Comes Out’, ‘Overgrown Vibes’, ‘Everyday I’m Safe’, ‘To The Bank’, and ‘Retro Clothes Shop’. The new tunes are enthralling – crackling samples and smothering bass give way to haunting piano and looping soulful melodies. It’s business as usual then, but what stands out is how the complexities of Blake’s independent label releases have built on the songwriting triumphs of his debut album to develop these new songs. Appropriately “to thine own self be true” is written on the wall above the stage.
The show also includes Feist cover ‘Limit To Your Love’ and ‘The Wilhelm Scream’, which inspire a crowd so silent that you could hear a pin drop. It’s just Blake for his cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’, an encore that gives a free reign to the 1971 ode. He leaves the stage wishing us a merry Christmas and a happy New Year. On tonight’s evidence 2013 will be an exciting time for James Blake.
Words by Jake Young