Friday 12 April 2013

James Blake // Live Review, Manchester Academy 2

“Overgrown” James Blake’s sophomore release came out only days ago yet the buzz surrounding it couldn’t be greater. To coincide with the album James embarks on a short sell-out UK tour.

Est.1987 headed down to the Manchester Academy 2 show to see the enigma that is James Blake…

James Blake on stage at the sold out Manchester Academy 2

A towering figure, James Blake takes to the stage quiet and unassuming and places himself seated behind his keys. The crowd’s excitement is hard to contain and the heat in the packed room soars, however as the set begins the entire venue is undoubtedly silent. Echoic throughout, songs such as “I Never Learnt To Share” effortlessly command serenity. Whilst some songs are stripped back, others such as album title track “Overgrown” are building; a gradual layering of sounds.

“Overgrown”, the much anticipated follow up to James’ self-titled debut, has seen his musical talent become more refined and mature. A man of very few words, the words that he does utter are to thank the crowd and his guitarist and drummer. Introvert and awkward on stage, his demeanor could be seen as disengaging; however, clearly talented and very good at what he does the exact opposite is true. It makes way for an engrossing live show, and as soon as James begins to play he comes to life and wholeheartedly becomes absorbed by the song. 

James Blake captivates the Manchester crowd

Those who were expecting an energetic show would have been sorely disappointed, yet the live set manages to harness something entirely different. Atmospheric James Blake is on point from beginning to end. However, songs such as the “CMKY” with its upbeat fluctuating tempo and infectious hook, and “Digital Lion with its gradually building heavy bass rhythm satisfy those keen to dance.

James Blake in Manchester
“Limit To Your Love”, James’ beautiful cover of Feist’s track is distinctive and soulful and a firm crowd favourite, stirring the ambience in the room. Latest single “Retrograde” closes the set and, much like everything that was played before, shows off James’ smooth and slick musicianship.  

James teases the crowd by leaving the stage, but is cheered back on to officially finish the set. The poignant and pained ballad “A Case of You”, originally by Joni Mitchell, isn’t the uplifting final song that most bands would choose. However, there is something so natural and unforced that the song mesmerizes from beginning to close.

Dischordant and angular, yet melodic and beautiful; James Blake, producer, DJ, singer-songwriter, is a man of many guises. His melancholic hypnotizing songs may demand a certain audience, willing to stand and take in subtle gestures, certainly tonight he captivated and his success and resonance within the music industry is surely only set to continue. 8/10

James Blake "Overgrown" is out now