Gig Review: James Blake @ Margaret Court Arena

Splendour In The Grass has come and gone for another year, summoning an army of musical talent to our shores. These are sad days, as we start the countdown until next year all over again, but for those of us lucky enough to catch the festival, or one of its sideshows, we have the memories to tide us over. For the Melbournians who caught James Blake in one such sideshow, there will be no shortage of memories to hold on to.

Blake is somewhat of a musical paradox; his angelic voice is perfectly suited to soul-piercing ballads, and he delivers, only mixed with electronic production with a distinctly UK flavour. It’s a truly distinct sound, which has spread across the globe and lifted Blake to dazzling heights. It’s this sound which generated our expectations for Blake’s show, and while he delivered fan favourites ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ and ‘Retrograde’, he also knows how to throw a curveball.

The tempo and pace of the show rose and fell with staggering range as the audience was caught up in Blake’s electro lullabies, as he and his band cranked things up and rocked out with the next track. ‘200 Press’ was a solid example of this, as the guys leapt into an epic jam that left the audience reeling. A special shout-out should go to Blake’s band, as they took on an electronic set list and performed a 100% live show, with a little help from Blake’s trusty loop. Furthermore, the production that went into the show was incredible, as the lighting and stage design created a dynamic and engaging show around the three stationary musicians.

Ultimately however, it was the more tempered pieces which won the night. The opening track ‘Always’, hooked the audience from the first bar. His final tracks, including ‘Case of You’ and ‘Measurements’, saw Blake strip back to something much more simple; the man, his piano, and the trusty loop we mentioned before. It was beautiful – hauntingly so.

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Images by Kayzar

Seth Robinson

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