Live Review

James Blake, Ritz, Manchester

Manchester, united by a quiet young man with a fringe.

Photo: Leah Henson
On a weekend that Manchester is divided by football it is brought together by James Blake. The crowd at the Ritz includes every type of fan; from the Kraftwerk b-side collecting old timers to the freshers hunting the first drop of their university education. Blake could be a famous victim of his own success, effortlessly gliding from soulful sparsity to intense dance music, but there’s not a scratch on him, each of his successes only providing the foundation for the next.

Opening with old favourite ‘I Never Learnt To Share’ Blake coyly displays the confidence of a man who can open his set with a song that only features one heavily repeated lyric before delighting the room with ‘CMYK’ before anyone could have expected it. But that’s his game, every part in the mesmerising twists and turns seems to arrive and depart at exactly the right moment, like a searchlight crossing the sky. It’s illuminating and incredibly delicate but powerful and compelling. Blake hits every cue with ease from the inch perfect vocals of ‘To The Last’, to a severe modification to ‘Voyeur’ that leaves the track almost twice the length and with all the fury and style of ‘Cross’-era Justice.

We can hunt for leaders, for pure talent or for just a certain something but each of these searches can meet at the feet of James Blake. Tonight in Manchester it ends amongst a group of people who may never share the same room again. One middle-aged guy goes as far as shouting “We love you James!” and the crowd couldn’t have picked a better spokesperson than that.

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