(mini)GIG REVIEW: James Blake @ Rough Trade East
A queue longer than I had ever imagined had gathered outside Rough Trade East for this special in-store gig from James Blake on the day of release for his self-title debut album. After waiting for about 15 minutes, whilst watching many of those without the required wristbands, that you received from the store once purchasing the album, be turned away. By the time I had got in a substantial crowd had already formed around the small stage and unsurprisingly I struggled for a view.
This was probably the first gig I’ve ever attended alone, but the love of music easily brings people together and it wasn’t long before I started speaking with another view-struggling attendee. It was hard for this not to feel like some important moment, a landmark, especially for Blake. If this album’s launch is successful, which I very much hope it is, I doubt we’ll get the chance to see him live in such a small setting for a very long time.
Opening his set with “Unluck”, Blake and his backing band seemed a lot more energetic and lively than during their set at the Gilles Peterson awards and you could visibly tell that Blake and his compadres have really gotten into the groove of playing live and performing the material from this fantastic album. After informing the audience that “You’ll probably know this one,” the group of course broke out into Blake’s rendition of Limit To Your Love, a song that deserves to be heard in such an environment, the song’s immense bass benefitting from the stage’s sound system.
Nervously shuffling in his seat, Blake quickly realised that “I’m over here still actually”, turning back to his original position before kicking off a solo rendition of “Give Me My Month” whilst his band-mates watched on. It’s a song of beauty that was over in a heartbeat, which had everyone hanging off his softly sung words. “To Care (Like You)” was the night’s next song, which had Blake utilising a sampler more than when I had saw his set prior. This was another minor touch that improved the performance, with the vocals more closely resembling those on the album, as Blake’s live act goes from strength to strength.
Next up was the repetitious “I Never Learnt To Share”, a song built around the refrain of “My Brother and my Sister, don’t speak to me, but I don’t blame them”. What was done here better than at Gilles Peterson’s Awards Show was the layering and manipulation of Blake’s vocals. Again, much like the album, the song stood out a lot stronger because of these certain elements being defined. Continuing with the auto-tuned two-parter “Lindisfarne”, the repeated “Beacon don’t fly too high,” was a truly refined moment, with a sense of emotional weight behind Blake’s words that has made me adore these two songs even more.
Before finishing the set Blake took a moment to thank the crowd, obviously jubilant that people have actually bought his album. It was almost as if he was addressing the crowd as the sole owners, the only ones who had purchased it and appreciated his music, he obviously hadn’t seen the amount of people without Rough Trade wristbands trying, and failing to get in. “The Wilhelm Scream”, was the obvious end of the night, the forthcoming father-influenced single, that dare I say it, is having a bigger impression than “Limit To Your Love” had. Those now very familiar lyrics, “I don’t know about my dreams, I don’t know about my dreaming anymore,” were sung with real significance and the crowd broke out in to the biggest cheer of the night. James Blake has already confirmed himself as an act to witness this year with his debut album, but with a live act that seems to be going from strength to strength, you’d be a fool to miss him. Listen below to a recent live rendition of Lindisfarne and a cover of Joni Mitchell.
A Case Of You (Joni Mitchell Cover)