James Blake @ Metropolis – 5th October 2016

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The word “unique” is an overused one in music journalism, but in James Blake, that word is embodied. Nobody in contemporary music sounds like he does, or, at least, nobody who could pack out Metropolis tonight like he has. His music, his live show: unique is a fitting adjective.


He arrives on stage with his 2-piece backing band amid an explosion of bass, which promptly cuts out to the quiet piano intro of Always, from highly acclaimed new record The Colour In Anything, which spookily then plays out with James singing over a distorted female vocal. The first of many huge cheers greet the songs conclusion, before Kraftwerk-style keys lead off Life Round Here, from 2013’s Overgrown record, exploding into a sea of purple strobe lights, with its guitar riff distorted to the point of sounding like a police siren.


After a skull-rattling bass-heavy rendition of Timeless, James exclaims “thanks for coming out in such support!”, evidently noting the size of the congregation before him. The breakthrough reworking of Feist’s Limit To Your Love comes next, from 2011’s self-titled debut, and switches frequently between piano and electronica to spectacular effect.


Another stunning moment arrives with a cover of Untold’s Stop What You’re Doing, which James previously remixed on record. James sits hunched over his effects equipment, and unleashes a heavily disjointed beat and wailing electro squeals layered over fuzzy keys, which resembles the breakdown of I Never learnt To Share (which unfortunately doesn’t get an airing tonight). Truly epic. A short, simple piano cover of Beyoncé’s Forward gives everyone a chance to catch their breath.


James gets even more creative on I Hope My Life, looping his own vocals with the treble turned way down to muffle them, before singing over the top to a driving bass line to create a club anthem out of nowhere that gets everyone moving. Voyeur has a similar club vibe, with cowbell and an air raid siren thrown in for good measure, and Metropolis dances once more.


Piano ballad The Colour In Anything gives everyone a breather, with James again singing over his own vocals, before opening act Moses Sumney comes out to add vocals on Modern Soul. A huge singalong accompanies the classic Retrograde, the stage exploding in light at the chorus in conjunction with a surreal backdrop of moths circling a light, and intermittent playback of the crowd cheering. The Wilhelm Scream closes out the main set, and carries far more effects live than its recorded counterpart. It builds to a finale in a wave of flashing strobes and distorted sound, before fizzling out to just James on the keys for the last run through of the mantra-like lyrics.


He returns to the stage alone and jokingly quips “you’re still here! Thats nice!” After a stellar cover of Joni Mitchell’s A Case Of You, he asks for complete silence in order to construct the vocal loops on which final song Measurements is based. Total silence ensues, and for the majority of the song, it’s just James and his voice, looping and layering more and more as the song progresses, before finally the keys join in for the outro. The song concludes with James in almost complete darkness. He gets up and leaves the stage for the last time, but the song continues to play on a loop from a now-deserted stage for a short while, before the house lights come up and the house music takes over the PA after 1 hour and 45 minutes of incredibly creative, uplifting, yes, unique, music. Can his live show possibly get any better from here? Who knows, but one thing’s for sure: we’ll all be back next time to find out!


Set List
Life Round Here
Choose Me
Limit to Your Love (Feist cover)
Love Me in Whatever Way
My Willing Heart
Stop What You’re Doing (James Blake Remix) (Untold cover)
Forward (Beyoncé cover)
I Need a Forest Fire
I Hope My Life
The Colour in Anything
Modern Soul (with Moses Sumney)
The Wilhelm Scream
A Case of You (Joni Mitchell cover)

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Ashley MacPhee

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