James Blake clearly takes his live shows as seriously and artistically as his music. That much was clear after his show at Showbox SODO on November 20th. From the opener to his song selection to the lights, everything seemed to flow and complement each other perfectly.
The night started when Nosaj Thing walked on to a dark stage lit dimly by a sampler. Nothing was said as he began his set. Dark organic sounds began to fill the venue as head bobbing began. Soon there was heavy bass and sharp drum kicks as well. While Blake’s and Nosaj Thing’s music definitely have different sounds, it was immediately obvious as to why the two were touring together. Nosaj Thing plucked away at his sampler head nodding to his fluid almost tribal beats without saying a word. By the end of his set it was clear he had made the venue a fan. His unstructured, bass heavy set of unique electronic music was the perfect thing to prepare for hearing James Blake.
Smoke filled the venue as James Blake came out with his 3 piece band. “I Never Learnt to Share” soon filled the venue and the crowd was blasted with bass and vocal loops. I quickly discovered that James Blake’s dub step influences are much more evident in the live setting. The lights and smoke complimented each song and I applaud whoever was responsible for the lighting. Blake’s set danced between bass heavy songs like “CMYK”, “Limit to Your Love”, “I Never Learnt to Share” and more stripped down songs like a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” and “Retrograde”. He threw in a Brian Eno collaboration as well in the form of “Digital Lion”. The set perfectly found the balance between danceable strobe heavy songs and more mellow affairs where Blake’s voice took the forefront.
The band and James Blake captivated the audience so well that at one moment in the show, when there was an equipment malfunction of some sort, most people (myself included) were completely oblivious until Blake apologized. He never stood up. He never hyped the crowd, yet the audience was putty in his musical layers. James Blake played through the encore ritual and came back on stage alone. He asked the crowd to keep quiet so he could loop his voice sans crowd noise. However, the crowd could not seem to make it past the 2nd bar without someone shouting out. Each time he started over calmly asking the crowd to shut up. After the third time, when someone yelled “F*** YEAH!!!” Blake clearly frustrated admitted that it was “the first time ever that that’s happened three times.” An obviously embarrassed SODO crowd then let Blake proceed. James Blake looped his voice and created a captivating gospel style a cappella version of “Measurements”. We were left in darkness, as Blake exited the stage with his ghostly vocals still looping. The crowd erupted one more time, as a night with James Blake is clearly not a thing one can keep quiet about for long.
Geran Landen/frog whisperer/KSUB Reporter