James Blake. The face of a dazed little boy, presumably innocent and so melancholic at the same time, with a voice, or should I say voices (oh the beauty of transpositions) so poignant it makes you want to bury your face in your hands and cry – it’s OK, don’t worry, I won’t tell anyone. So finally, I managed to witness the contained and cleanly crafted songs come to life at the HMV Forum for the last show of his tour, and here’s the impression I got to carry around since then.
The young prodigies Vondelpark opened the show, a one-man act who lately adopted a few other kids. With the looks of one of those scruffy-haired rock bands followed constantly by their horde of screeching groupies, their sound was unexpected in the best possible way, sounding much more electronic and bearing proof of their musical maturity. Coherent with the main act, they were a very pleasant discovery, and less pretentious and ‘widespread’ (to avoid using that other ugly m-word…) in several ways for the harsher critics out there.
Then James Blake came on, alone, with his traditional highly buttoned-up collared shirt and immaculate hair. A peaceful look on his face, collected and confident, he managed nevertheless to bring an imposing and nearly intimidating charisma on stage with him. The lighting was clearly studied, the stage setting was minimal, and the sound system tremendous. The magnificence of seeing James Blake live in such a context lied in how the music which usually seems to appear so contained manages to gain so much intensity and power, offering a perspective on his music I could have never imagined.
The way objects and liquids vibrate in the video of ‘Limit to Your Love’ seemed to gain a whole new meaning when, this time, it was my entire body experiencing it. I gave up on keeping my gaze on James Blake. I just let it all carry me away. Eyes closed, every single organ in my body felt the music. The show wasn’t meant to appeal exclusively to hearing or sight anymore. It was something transcending what was expected from a gig. A journey through some emotionally charged music, like some of Antony and the Johnsons’ concentrate of musicality and classical immoderation blended with the bluntness of post-dubstep beats.
From a faithful take on ‘I Never Learnt to Share’ to an incredible improvisational dub of ‘CMYK’ or other sparkling renditions of some more recent songs like ‘A Case of You,’ he managed to take the last breath away from every one of us standing in that fully packed venue, making us only scream for more.