Live Review

James Blake, The Arches, Glasgow

Blake has perfected building all the facets of his sound and style into one vivid live experience.

Mirroring the assured expansion of his sound rhythmically and emotionally, James Blake’s live show is a striking mix of evocative and sensual electronic soul combined with an ability to morph from quiet and distant begins to a sensory rhythmic overload that is bone judderingly powerful in effect.

Hunched over his keyboard, sequencer and piano, Blake is a towering figure. A guitarist and supremely impressive drummer flesh out his sparse songs adding small but incredibly important flourishes. There seems to be a newfound confidence behind Blake’s songs, the dynamic of the performance having moved far beyond the rather stilted shows to promote his debut. Tonight’s gig begins with the tremulously quivering skeletal beats of ‘I Never Learnt To Share’ followed by ‘Overgrown’s’ luscious soft grandeur. There’s an appreciable sense among the rapt Glasgow crowd that they are witnessing something quite special.

Blake has perfected building all the facets of his sound and style into one vivid live experience. There is now a lovely mix between introspective piano balladry and full on rave like ecstasy. ‘Voyeur’s’ heavy hitting beat even prompts some handclaps from the crowd, almost certainly a first at any James Blake gig. ‘Digital Lion’ is perhaps even better. The sense of racked tensioned is ramped up by a number of strange whirring noises, beats and low-end bass frequencies that reverberate through your whole body.

Onstage Blake is still a shy, self-deprecating and unassuming character. He seems slightly taken back by the response of the crowd. There’s no doubt he’s having fun though. Illuminating ‘Retrograde’ with a genuine swing and some jazzy flourishes he seems at peace, lost in his own world of creation. The rigidity of the debut’s songs gives way to fluidity as he embellishes them with all manner of sonic advancements. ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ features insidious bubbling guitar picks while the keyboards gradually swell into dissonant, distorted crackles. The little details like subtly changing the cadence of his voice and delivery of the repetitive hook are supremely effective.

Despite the progression of his live experience, he still ends on his cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’, alone at his piano it is the beautiful culmination of a blossoming performer.

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