When Klavierwerke was released in September 2010 the critics were anticipating a successful debut album from James Blake, and he didn’t disappoint. James is shy, cute, elegant, humble and sophisticated – just like his music. His mix of dubstep, drum and bass and R&B is probably the most original thing to have come out of 2011.
The adoring crowd in Koko last night understood that perfectly, and knew this gig in Mornington Crescent was not to be missed.
The predictably sold-out performance was so perfect and emotional the young hero should be playing on bigger stages in a matter of months.
What made it so special and heartfelt was, first off, James’ unbelievable voice. It’s an instrument in itself, as he modulates his tone according to the intensity of the song. In the superb I Never Learnt To Share it is painful and mischievous, while in Unluck it is shaking and irregular. Live you can really feel how powerful his chords are and how intense his singing is, in spite of his surprisingly minimal musical background.
James might look rather introverted, but he is living proof that you don’t need to come on stage half an hour late and smash everything around you to rock the show. He simply played his piano, and that was enough to turn Limit To Your Love and To Care (Like You) into modern classics.
Potentially, James Blake’s debut could have been commercial suicide. It’s perfectly produced, innovative and forward thinking, but songs amalgamating silence, piano crescendos, echoes over echoes and minimal beats take some getting used to.
James’ interpretation, or reinvention, of dubstep is quite unique. While Magnetic Man is radio-friendly and Burial can be too dark for the average pop fan, James Blake pushes the limits one step further without losing any of his appeal. Despite his androgynous voice, his music is not as difficult as it seems on surface, and his Feist cover, Limit To Your Love, was the anthemic moment of the night.
This was a truly fantastic gig made possible by a young guy who has surely earned a Mercury Prize Nomination next month. Koko might have been his highest point so far, but at this rate his sophomore will take him to Brixton Academy.
By Silvia Rucchin