James Blake - KOKO, London
Despite the busy sold-out crowd that is crammed into London’s KOKO tonight, this evening's show is still a very simple and understated affair. Joining James Blake and his piano and keyboards is a drummer, and good friend Dominic from Mount Kimbie on guitar, gathered on stage under a sparse arrangement of lights. Launching straight into ‘Unluck’, the opening track from his debut album, it’s clear that Blake’s voice is the real star of the show; as soulful live as it is on record, his vocals swim and morph over the subtle keys and electronic drones before being engulfed in ripples and waves of foundation-shaking bass. Much of tonight’s music is quite low-key, with emphasis placed on the space between each sound, a fact which is in complete opposition to the clusters of people at the back of the room who persist in talking throughout the show and in general taking away a little of the magic of Blake’s music.
‘I Never Learnt To Share’ is a particular highlight as he loops his voice over and over to stunning choral effect, while icy synths rise up in the background before eventually giving way to a cacophony of processed noise. ‘Limit To Your Love’ follows swiftly after, giving Blake plenty of room to show off his solo piano skills and the full emotional force of his voice. Much to the crowd's delight, ‘CMYK’ is given a rare airing with its sampled vocals, pummelling and hazy beats and syrupy melodies, and is the first track to really get the audience moving. Returning to his self-titled album, ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ and ‘Lindisfarne’ bring things back to a dreamy, euphoric atmosphere before leaving the stage to deafening applause.
Dedicating his encore to dubstep legend Mala, the band are bolstered by a horn-player for an incredible cover of Digital Mystikz' ‘Anti-War Dub’; a droning, rhythmic beast of a track, this performance shows how electronic music performed by a live band can really succeed. As the rest of the band leave the stage, Blake is left on his own with just his piano to accompany him for a brand new track which sees him moving further into the soulful and sparse arrangements which he has explored previously. There really is no one doing what this man is doing at the moment, showing the audience that he truly is one of a kind.