For regulars at The Warehouse Project in Manchester the eve of November the 26th offered a change to the regular wide eyed dancing and sweat filled underground, for James Blake was headlining with a live set as part of the R & S Records curated night. Earlier in the year James had played a few last minute shows with his bad following the release of his impeccable self titled debut. 10 months later he's released 2 EP's to that long player, Enough Thunder and Love What Happened Here. He's played numerous festivals the world over but yet this dark and ominous Manchester venue seems like it was made for him.
As oppose to the pushing and shoving you may have come accustomed to at these nights, the crowd seemed transfixed once James and his band took to the stage and as the opening bass heavy "Unluck" began the crowd fell silent and all eyes were facing forward mine included. On record Blake's tracks are minimal and subtle and I'd always wondered how they'd come across in a live setting and to be honest, I was blown away. Leading the proceedings from behind his piano he'd often extend album cuts into a whirring pulse of goodness. At the start of the year it was hard to escape "Limit To Your Love" with all of the radio play it was getting but here, in this setting you forget that and you close your eyes and float on to a better place. The fact he'd riff with flourishes of piano twinkles made the 10 minute build up and crescendo all the more satisfying. It was a full on sensory extravaganza and everyone in the room was invited.
After seeing "The Wilhelm Scream" performed numerous times via internet/festival footage I was blown away by it in person. The guitar scream for the latter part of the song brings a shiver to my spine as the crowd sways in unison. A rarity for this event, usually you'd be so sweaty you'd just pop between people like a well oiled balloon, tonight, everyone just wants to listen and everyone is.
A highlight from Blake's album for me was "I Never Learnt To Share" with its pulsating synth and vocals before the dance like drop of filth at the end. When James andhis band dropped this track the crowd was quickly enthralled into a unison of bopping heads and arms. Another crowd pleaser was "CMYK". Tonight, James Blake can do no wrong. As he leaves the stage I can't help but think I've just witnessed one of the most awe inspiring things in a long, long time, maybe ever. 2011 was the year dustup made its mark, but it was also the year James Blake made himself known to many. So many in fact that before his live set has finished the queue his imminent DJ set was already insanely large and it still was after he'd finished it! Crazy. People were there to see James Blake and he definitely delivered a treat for the senses. I wonder what 2012 has in store for him? Time will tell but I left that venue on a high feeling very lucky to have seen James Blake at one of the final shows at Manchester's Store Street Venue for WHP. Thanks to A Red Cup Blog for the pic.