February 20, 2019 at House of Blues
The audience silently held their breath, not daring to disrupt the hypnotic lullaby that lured us closer–until suddenly, all at once, that silence crowned into a righteous roar.
Somewhere under the soft pink glow and striking strobes that illuminated the stage at House of Blues, an angelic voice hovered in the air; in between modular sounds and techno drum beats, James Blake’s voice permeated the crowded room. Piano crescendoed as “Assume Form” began to play and Blake, who was dressed in a long, black tunic stood behind his keyboard caressing the microphone with his lips. The audience silently held their breath, not daring to disrupt the hypnotic lullaby that lured us closer–until suddenly, all at once, that silence crowned into a righteous roar.
Emerging from the UK’s underground techno scene and becoming one of “hip-hop’s favorite Brits,” the past few years have been monumental for James Blake. His latest endeavours include endless collaborations with the likes of Travis Scott, Frank Ocean, Bon Iver and Beyonce. In 2019, Blake was up for 3 Grammys (with one win) for his work with Kendrick Lamar on the song “King’s Dead” for the film Black Panther, as well as a nomination for best new artist. Following up, Blake dropped his fourth studio album, Assume Form, including features by Travis Scott, Moses Sumney, Metro Boomin, ROSALÍA and everyone’s favorite feature artist, André 3000. Upholding all the values a true James Blake fan appreciates, the album is full of heavy bass, heavy lyrics and technological experimentation that all give way to vocals akin to melting butter. I digress.
James Blake’s performance at House of Blues touched upon his latest work, while also giving proper ode to its predecessors; Blake’s voice washed over the crowd as “Barefoot in the Park” echoed from the stage, all eyes transfixed on him. Interacting with the crowd using his modular system, Blake recorded the audience’s cheers integrating them into the fabric of his performance, incorporating our voice into his as he introduced “Retrograde,” from his 2013 album Overgrown. Looping his live vocals, he harmonized with himself, creating an authentic experience that was incredibly intimate despite the grandiose nature of the venue. The lights breathed with him, coloring the crowd in soft shades that danced along with the hypnotizing rhythm.
After a brief interlude, Blake concluded with the last track on Assume Form, ‘Lullaby For My Insomniac.” He asked the audience to stay silent as he crouched down by the looping pedal at the front of the stage. Holding the microphone close, he hummed and hymned, looped it, and repeated until a choral melody was born. Quietly rocking back and forth on his two feet, he sang the audience into a peaceful, meditative state before slowly backing off stage leaving nothing behind but a mic stand and his quiet, looping vocals bidding the crowd a soft farewell.