James Blake @ Mezzanine, SF 4/17/13
On a victory lap through California after an awesome first weekend set at Coachella, James Blake made his way up north to San Francisco for two sold out shows at the Mezzanine.
Blake is an interesting artist on many levels. He has a love hate relationship with electronic music, his chosen genre (he named his EP Enough Thunder). You get the sense that he would be perfectly content playing the
piano, but he”s not able to express his ideal tone the way electronic music can. Blake can do the drum and bass thing well, but his preferred brand of electronica is syrupy thick and brooding, with an R&B influence (the RZA featured track on his latest record Overgrown works better than it should).
The show moved between awed silence to a dance party. Yes, there was some fist pumping, but they were self conscious fist pumps by most. The Skrillex dance set has embraced him, and some of them made their way to the show. They danced super hard, and made the ambitious but unfortunate decision to sing along to “A Case Of You,” his Joni Mitchell cover. It was maddening! As an audience member you have to know when you can sing along, and this was not it. They applauded a little too loudly when the bass dropped on “Limit To Your Love.”
In a live setting Blake is able to create an almost church-like vibe with the combination of his delicate vocals on a loop with his bass heavy tracks pushing the pace. “I Never Learned To Share” was excellent, as was “Overgrown” and “Retrograde.” Blake finished the set by himself with his piano (with the aforementioned Joni Mitchell
cover), and it was perfect except for the overly excited extra voices.