James Blake - The Arches, Glasgow, Thu 9 Apr 2013
The young electronica producer delivers a memorable performance with material from second album, Overgrown
Having notched up five Glasgow appearances in three years, it certainly seems as though James Blake has a fondness for the place, or at the very least the enthusiastic reception he receives here; tonight’s relaxed turns at chat, including a jokey recollection of heckling at a previous gig, seem to say as much.
While two of those past visits may have been DJ slots at Numbers, highlighting another artistic side, Blake’s move to perform at progressively larger venues when returning to the city, perfectly illustrates how recognition of his undeniable talent has spread; the recent major label release of second album, Overgrown only confirms this.
Though it perhaps moves away from the more experimental leanings of his self-titled debut, the quivering synths, hi-hat bursts and lurching drums of set-opener, ‘Air and Lack Thereof’ show that he’s not about to abandon past sonic explorations as a producer. Indeed, it’s the contrast between percussion-driven, bass-heavy elements and Blake’s quavering falsetto during this evening’s performance which give it a real edge.
Accompanied by a drummer and guitarist, a spotlight falls on the singer’s tall frame, leant deep in concentration over a keyboard on ‘I Never Learnt To Share’, loops of his own echoing vocal joining a warped, rising synth line and stabs of quaking bass; bathed in the same white hue, ‘Lindisfarne’, sees Blake open with a sensitive a cappella, his bandmates later adding muffled rhythms and plucked, acoustic guitar.
A rapid interchange between drum, cymbals and snare gives the R & B-sampling ‘CMYK’ a fresh, dynamic propulsion, while dub-influenced, rim-shot effects are injected into the familiar piano-melody of Feist-cover, ‘Limit To Your Love’; ‘Wilhem’s Scream’ combines guitar and sonar pulses with the 24-year old singer’s distinctive, soaring tones, its percussive elements going on to reach a dramatic crescendo.
Drawing from Overgrown on a number of occasions, the hummed melodies and lovelorn lyrics of ‘Our Love Comes Back’ and ‘Retrograde’, as well as ‘To The Last’s heartfelt melancholy, give a definite sense of the album’s emotive concerns. However, it’s ‘Digital Lion’ and ‘Voyeur’ from it that standout, Blake adding his unique vocals atop a seeming myriad of electronics and rhythmic patterns to create enthralling walls of noise; his stirring, fervent cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘A Case Of You’ later offers a fitting climax to this memorable performance.
James Blake returns to Glasgow to play the O2 ABC on Wed 18 Sep.