Mezzanine was packed Tuesday night as people anxiously awaited UK singer James Blake to take the stage for the second night in a row.
Blake has created quite the buzz with his new album, Overgrown, featuring RZA and Brian Eno, and an high-profile performance at Coachella this year. His soulful voice, a clash between Aaron Neville and Bon Iver, are often harmonized and layered over slow rhythms and dub beats.
The swarthy, dimly lit nightclub was packed with barely any room to maneuver to the restroom between the industrial cement pillars at the club. As 10:30pm hit, Blake made his way to stage, illuminated with navy blue lighting.
Deep arbitrary bass hits overlapped eerie keyboards and haunting samples that demanded the crowd’s attention. The three members of the band moved subtly, fixated on their instruments while three large probe lights flashed behind them. The opening instrumental seemed to have the crowd confused, until his next song, the gospel laden, “I Never Learnt to Share” with Blake singing, “my brother and my sister won’t speak to me, and I don’t blame them.” Blake demonstrated his use of live technology, sampling the first vocal line while harmonizing over it.
“Thanks for coming back,” the humbled Blake addressed the crowd. “I’ve been walking around all day with the flu trying to get better. But at least I got free coffee at the Farmer’s Market.” Blake might have been sick, but it didn’t slow him down. His set progressively intensified throughout the night and the crowd went from listless to lively, showering him in unduly cheers.
Highlights of the night were “Retrograde,” the first single from his new album, and “Our Love Comes Back,” the melodic closing track from the same release. His version of Feist’s, “Limit to Your Love” and the acclaimed “The Wilhelm Scream” from his self-titled album and the danceable bootlegged song “Digital Lion,” from his 1-800-Dinosaur mixtape were also highlights.
Blake heads back to Coachella this weekend before starting a national tour.