James Blake

Artist: James Blake
Date: 27th November
Venue: Leeds SU
Review: Rory Foster
Rating: **

What he lacks in stage presence James Blake tries to make up for in bass. That was the impression I got in the middle of a vibrating Leeds crowd whilst trying to decide whether this was a good gig or not . As a big fan of both the man’s work before and after his self titled album releases earlier this year, it saddens me to say I’m not sure it was.

There were moments of greatness. Gig and album opener Unluck warms up both the crowd and his two piece band with its bizarre time signature and soulful vocals. I Never Learnt to Share is equally impressive; the marriage of choral and synth cascades reproducing the album’s powerful buildup. But what lets him down the most is the transition between his bass-heavy instrumentals and intricate pop & soul tracks. The audience appears similarly split; half pining for Feist cover Limit to your Love,the other half CMYK – a recreation of the club tune that first got people interested in the twenty-something Goldsmith’s graduate.

Whilst the latter does impress (despite most of it being played by the drummer tapping the right samples) the former feels hugely drawn out to appease the crowd. The same goes for a lot of the more popular songs, for the obvious reason that Blake doesn’t actually have that many songs that work for a ‘live’ band. In the end we got a taste of both spheres of Blake’s music, but with neither really fitting comfortably within the 90 minute space he has to fill. It’s always the same problem. James Blake’s persona is part bass DJ, part singer-songwriter. He’s trying to please both, but he’d be much better off picking one direction for his shows to head in.

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