James Blake didn’t skip a beat. On the heels of his Weekend 1 Coachella performance, he came straight to San Francisco for not one, but two nights of his soulful singing and bass heavy tracks. Last night’s performance at the Mezzanine left me with a huge amount of respect for Blake: he knows how to make his experience one of a kind.
James Blake has mastered the art of simplicity with intricacies. When performing “Digital Lion” off his new record Overgrown, he gave life to every aspect of the song. The keyboard and drums built upon themselves with a steady pace, as if to lead the audience into an unknown place. And once there, we were given the grand tour of the song: gushing synths and tumbling drums soothed by Blake’s smooth projection that ever so slightly, would quiver for brief moments. Then came the break. Like a loud exhale, after an exhausting spill of emotions, the song approached its end. A simple beat, alone, was all that remained. Our mind awash, easing forward. Then another track would follow, repeating a similar juxtaposition, and cumulatively painting this landscape that only Blake creates.
Like his music, a similar air of simplicity is projected in his public persona. As he approached the stage he waved hello, said a few words (including that he was playing sick) and then began to play. Later, his attention to detail showed. As he started playing “CMYK,” he noticed a note on his keyboard was out of tune and stopped playing. “After playing that song for two years, it’s never sounded like that,” he explained. He reset his keyboard. It was a simple detail, easily overlooked by most.
He ended the night with “A Case of You.” It was perfect. In it he sings, “I’m frightened by the devil, and I’m drawn to those ones that aint afraid,” describing exactly what it’s like to be drawn to his music.