Photos by Randall Vasquez
It took me some time to get completely won-over by James Blake, the young British man with the voice of honey and his chilled out laptop soul. Riding on a wave of hype, I thought his debut was alright, but ultimately a little cold. His second album, 2013’s Overgrown, was light years improved to these ears, but his latest album, The Colour In Anything, is runner for my album of the year.
So it is with this lovely album that Blake hit the very appropriate surroundings of Massey Hall before a packed house. Opening with “Always” from the latest album, Blake and his two additional musicians delivered a beautiful set that really showcased the atmospherics of his music and that voice.
The history of Massey Hall was not lost on Blake who addressed his joy at playing the venue a couple of times, thanking his band members for doing their best to recreate music Blake had made on his laptop. The results were sublime and blessed with the perfect visual backdrop which made for a complimentary night of sound and vision.
The three musicians were in a row mid-stage with Blake to the right behind a bank of piano and keys. The lights were minimal for the most part and appropriately swelled in intensity as the music did over the course of the night. While half of The Colour In Anything’s 17 songs got aired, Blake also managed to dip into his first two albums to the delight of the crowd.
Highlights were many over the course of the night. New songs “Choose Me”, “Timeless” and “I Need a Forest Fire” were haunting as was his cover of Feist’s “Limit to Your Love” off his debut.
He brought out opener Moses Sumney for The Colour In Anything highlight “Modern Soul” which was my personal highlight of the evening. As an aside, unfortunately I missed Sumney’s opening set much to the dismay of a stranger who had some not so choice words for me at the bar when I informed her I missed his set.
Closing out the night with “The Wilhelm Scream” off his debut, Blake left an adoring crowd on its feet demanding more. Due to the venue’s curfew there was only time for one song in the encore which found Blake solon on the piano for a beautiful read of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You”, a fitting end to the evening that I didn’t want to end.