Courtesy of James Blake
If you want some idea of what James Blake’s show sounded like on Sunday night at the Rock and Roll Hotel, do yourself a favor and listen to this broadcast of his SXSW set while you read.
I was beyond excited to get a chance to see Blake on his first US tour, at a venue as tiny as the Rock and Roll Hotel, at a show that sold out within minutes. He’s one of the rare artists who pushes the boundaries of popular music, creating something familiar but unclassifiable. (I’ll refrain from using the phrase “post-dubstep” in this review.) Blake is preceded by groups like How To Dress Well and The XX, who create dark, atmospheric, slow pop songs that use sparse instrumentation. This emptiness gives the songs enough breathing room that you can fill in the space yourself. After making a name for himself by producing dubstep, a dark, bass-heavy style of dance music from England, Blake mixed in his soul-singer-like vocals to craft his debut album last year.
As a singer/songwriter/producer, James Blake’s set could’ve gone in several different directions. I was wondering if he would stick to solo piano pieces. Or maybe he would eschew his voice in favor of playing straight, rhythm-focused dubstep tracks from his early days. We ended up getting a good mix of songs off his debut and electronic explorations old and new. Oh, and it was one of the best-sounding shows I’ve witnessed at the Rock and Roll Hotel.