James Blake, July 26, Prince Bandroom

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James Blake, July 26, Prince Bandroom


If James Blake’s album is good, his live show is astounding. The angel-faced British artist sold out two gigs at the Prince Bandroom on his debut Australian tour, and eager fans were rewarded with a performance that completely eclipsed the promise of his self-titled, Mercury Prize-nominated record.

Facing a twitching, claustrophobic crowd on the Tuesday night, Blake took the stage quietly, Ben Assiter (drums) and Rob McAndrews (guitar) by his side. With the opening notes of Unluck – a shiver-inducing interplay of thick, electrifying synth and ticking percussion – the giddy young audience was hushed and transfixed. Defying the intimate feel of the record, the live sound was expansive and bracing, driven by shuddering electronic bass notes that rumbled through your shins, chest and cheekbones, dusted with the warped, elusive sound of Blake’s ethereal tenor. The earlier songs in the set were predominantly instrumental, a landscape of drum and bass beat patterns shaped by Assiter’s sharp hands, various knobs twisted by McAndrews and Blake on the piano and synth. Then, maybe halfway through, Blake’s voice took centre stage. He sang I Never Learned to Share – or shaped the song, more accurately, by layering looped samples of his own dissonant, jarring vocal. Haunting and fractured, this was a high point of the set, followed by Blake’s arch, bluesy rendition of Limit to Your Love, which left him trembling over the high notes, and the slow-building explosion of Wilhelms Scream, which unfolded over the crowd like a tidal wave – an epic finish.

LOVED: Everything

HATED: For once, nothing.

DRANK: Slowly.