If, like me, you’re a James Blake convert since he appeared on the scene back in 2010, then you, too, have probably found yourself proselytising over Blake since. His dub-infused electro tracks produce such a dogmatic devotedness from fans – the likes of which range from Mary Ann Hobbs, to fellow producer du jour Ghostpoet, and even Jared Leto – that his popularity is quietly sky-rocketing beneath the saccharine mezzanine of "commercial pop" or top 10 chart success.
The latter is irrelevant, anyway. This singer-songwriter can fill a venue with complete ease. Blake’s gig, within the cavernous subterranean rooms of London’s Heaven nightclub, was awash with a maddeningly cool crowd, there to help the producer welcome in the release of his long-awaited second album 'Overgrown', released just the day before.
Sipping pints as the ceiling’s par cans rained blue light down on us all, we awaited Blake’s entrance with some head nodding to a few garage-led tunes from the inter-act DJ.
Blake then sauntered on stage to a rapturous applause. Achingly modest, he shunned pomp and ceremony choosing to address the audience with a simple "Hi, how are you doing?" before nose-diving straight into the performance.
The talented musician fuses his soulful, pitch-perfect voice with the piano and synth, all massaged together with reggae and dubstep undertones - and he is a force to be reckoned with.
Set within the ominous surroundings of an underground crypt Blake stayed true to his original working of ‘I Never Learnt To Share’ from his first album, with a live recording, re-recording and overlapping of his vocals in its introduction. The decibels reverberated around the room, as pushy and slightly drunk audience members elbowed their way through a dense crowd to get closer to the front.
Versatility abound, Blake’s musical genius takes in a range of genres, and on his third live track sampled a taste of calypso and dancehall trickling through the electro beats.
Understatedly dressed in a dark, plain shirt and trousers, his floppy brown hair lopped about in response to his idiosyncratic head bopping; his shoulders flinging forward, moving with the beats whilst he leant over the keyboard.
After a well-received performance of ‘CMYK’, Blake explained how open to calamity his songs are when playing live. The delicacies of recording your own voice on stage, to then play it back so that it creates numerous well-timed layers of the same line would probably make anyone nervous. Funnily enough about 30 seconds later he made a mistake and told everyone to forget it had happened. It was too perfectly timed to forget, I’m afraid.
He left ‘Limit to Your Love’ and his latest release, ‘Retrograde’, towards the back end of the set. And each time he started we thought the audience might explode with excitement. Arguably his two most famous songs so far, the crowd sang along with him and the delivery felt magnetic and majestic. This boy surely has got riddem.
Words by Natasha Culzac
Photos by Richard Gray