Live Review: James Blake at the Troubadour

James Blake
James Blake
Lainna Fader

Who: James Blake

Where: Troubadour

When: 5/23/2011

Last night's sold out Troubadour show marked the London-based, classically-trained dubstep producer's Los Angeles debut. "This venue has historic importance and I'm massively glad to be here," James Blake said, and so were we, having waited months to bring the preternaturally talented electronic music composer to our city.

The 22-year-old Blake is a braver musician than most, taking a studio-born (and largely bound) form to the stage. He used space and silence to great advantage in his short but mesmerizing set, playing nearly an hour without saying more than a couple words. The soul in his music wrapped around every member of the silent crowd,

who kept quiet all night (rare for any performance), enraptured by his minimal, deconstructed beats and fractured,

soulful vocals.

Lainna Fader
Lainna Fader

Accompanied by a guitarist and a drummer, Blake opened with "Unluck," the first track off his recently released self-titled LP. All the scattered clicks, stutters and electronic warbles from the record came alive around his cracked, mournful vocals, though he allowed them to breathe with less processing than on his recordings.

Seated behind two keysboards and a fortress of pedals and towers of cables, he seemed a bit uncomfortable, perhaps a kind of discomfort born of rising to fame so quickly and unexpectedly.  Pleased with the song's reception, Blake continued, playing through most of his last record. "I Never Learnt to Share" seemed to resonate with more than a few people in the audience last night, and several shed a tear during the sad and beautiful "Lindisfarne II."    

Live Review: James Blake at the Troubadour
Lainna Fader

"This venue has historic importance and I'm massively glad to be here," he said before closing with the single, "The Wilhelm Scream." Blake zeroes in on desperation, sighing "I don't know about my dreamin' anymore/ All that I know is I'm fallin', fallin', fallin', fallin'." Layers of vocals bloomed, folded and unfolded over and over again.

Live Review: James Blake at the Troubadour
Lainna Fader

Blake came back for an encore alone, his band watching him from the stairs. "The person who wrote this song is such a massive influence on me and everything I've done in the last year and to know that she might hear it tonight is an honor," he said, before starting into Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You." Trading in Mitchell's gentle guitar for a distressed piano, making the song's pain somehow more immediate and heartbreaking than Mitchell herself was able to capture.

Give Me My Month
Tep and Logic
I Never Learnt To Share
Lindisfarne I
Lindisfarne II
To Care (Like You)
Limit to Your Love (Feist)
The Wilhelm Scream
A Case of You (Joni Mitchell)

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