Tag Archives: Commodore Ballroom

LIVE ACTION: James Blake — Commodore Ballroom, April 25, 2013

22 Oct

James Blake live at Electronic Beats Festival Cologne 2013

Watching James Blake at the Commodore Ballroom was like eating at a gourmet restaurant of sound. Each oaky word, textured piano note, and effervescent synth riff was deployed with deceptive minimalism, so individual sounds could be distinctly enjoyed before melting into a song.

Humbly acknowledging the crowd with a simple, “How ya doin?” Blake launched into “Air & Lack Thereof,” his first single from 2009, and one that creeps up with some seriously heavy bass. This was complimented by the rat-a-tat-tat snare and impressive cymbal crashing of drummer Ben Assiter, to great effect.

As we heard Blake’s tenor chime the first a capella notes of “I never Learnt to Share,” the crowd went mad. Using the incredible vocal control, he sang over loops of his two-line, bluesy melody and layered those over lush keys and Rob McAndrews’ soulful guitar. Add the unique bass drop at the song’s climax, and you’ve got even the most aloof concertgoers dropping low.


Blake delivered more treats from his 2011 self-titled debut, and created an intimate atmosphere with “Lindisfarne I” and “Lindisfarne II,” a pair of goosebump-inducing songs that were like a warm, enveloping blanket live. His popular cover of Feist’s “Limit to Your Love” had audience members singing along as the 24-year-old’s silhouette was bathed in a sensual red glow.

Next came some new songs from Blake’s recent release, Overgrown. “To the Last,” with its minimal melody and fat bass synths, kept the mood mellow. Not one for stagnant emotions, Blake took things up several notches with the frenetic pace of Voyeur. Synthesized cowbells mixed with live drums and the simple phrase “I don’t mind, it was all me” created a tense, almost catastrophic atmosphere that could only be dissipated through dance.

My favourite track of the night (besides “I Never Learnt to Share,” I can’t get enough of that bass drop) was CMYK. Because I only have Blake’s two studio albums, I hadn’t heard this amazing electro-R&B gem from his 2010 EP CMYK. A densely woven fusion of Aaliyah’s “Are You That Somebody?” and Kelis’s “Caught Out There,” paired with Blake’s trademark post-dubstep sensibilities, created an insta fave.


Capping off his encore with “A Case of You,” a Joni Mitchell cover, Blake crooned, “I drew a map of Canada / Oh Canada / With your face sketched on it twice / Oh you’re in my blood like holy wine,” his stunning vocals emulating Michell’s cascading style. In an interview with Collective Concerts, Blake said, “”Joni embodies the things I’m talking about. She was the spark that led to [Overgrown].” His rendition of Joni’s song was so rich, so beautiful, that it created a proud Canadian moment for all of us.

Considering his otherworldly talents, James Blake is a very understated live performer. His unassuming nature paired with deeply introspective vocals and forward-thinking production is reminiscent of a child prodigy. As I left the Commodore I felt satisfied in the way one would after having indulged in a high quality meal. Flavours lingered in my memory, but not on my palate, and I was surprised to find my ears weren’t ringing. In fact, it was hard not to feel like a sound connoisseur, because his concert showcased some of the best fidelity I’d ever heard. If this Pitchfork-crowned “post-dubstep whiz kid” is just starting to mature, I can’t wait for what he’ll serve up next.

Photos courtesy of electronicbeats.net, smallworld.com and www.idealizela.com.