Concert Reviews

James Blake at The Mod Club

Photographs by Maya Setton. 

Praise is due to whoever decided James Blake should play the Mod Club. His packed 2013 performance at Kool Haus seemed intimate enough, but the cosy surrounds of Mod Club didn’t go unnoticed by the English producer-singer-songwriter. “You’re all so close and personal. I feel like we can talk like I’m in your living room.” As if the set could be anything but. Flowing effortlessly between falsetto driven piano ballads and alluring club numbers, the crowd was transfixed.

Kicking off with soulful Bill Withers cover Hope She’ll Be Happier, Blake kept the atmosphere going with a litany of hits. Reaching back a few years, CMYK found its light and helped the crowd find their feet, buoyed by the work of multi-instrumentalist Rob McAndrews and drummer Ben Assiter. With echoes of John Cage’s 4’33, the crowd’s cheers jammed themselves into the top layer of I Never Learnt to Share’s vocal loop. Surging back with each new recording, the fervour boosted an already dense wall of sound. True to form, vocals stacked up against swelling frequencies and fuzzy bass riffs, building to a crescendo that felt not only compelling, but earned.

Not content to rest on his laurels, he deftly introduced fresh tracks a week after touting news of his impending 2015 LP. 200 Press and Voyeur shifted back to electronic dance beats, harnessing dissonant sonic artefacts and an array of aural effects. The latter warped into an extended jam session, dispelling the lingering mood of earlier neo soul numbers. Spurned by the rhythmic fusion of synths and discordant elements, the crowd came to life. Seizing spirits, he closed out the set with fan favourite Wilhelm Scream.

Despite earlier protestations, Blake took the stage once more. “As much as I find encores really funny, I never take them for granted. I could’ve disappeared for 10 years for all you knew.” Promising one last new track on the condition that people packed their phones away, he sat behind the piano. True to their promise, people listened. Reminiscent of Joni Mitchell cover A Case of You, new song Forever was beset by a tender air of longing. Simple keys carved a path for Blake’s wavering gospel to shine through. “You can’t walk the streets a ghost anymore” he sang, words drifting with the lightness of his tenor. Lit purely by a single spot, safe from smartphone light pollution, the performance was captivating. Gauging the reaction, if there’s a limit to our love he didn’t reach it. 

About author

Music writer at Live in Limbo. With an avid passion for all things live and loud, Leon gets down to business. Once he finds his centre he is sure to win. His prose is swift as a coursing river, with all the force of a great typhoon. Insight with strength of a raging fire, mysterious as the dark side of the moon.