Regardless of age, background, gender or the reality of life outside of Apogee’s Berkeley Street Studio last night, every single person in the room seemed to be swooning for 24-year-old UK singer/producer James Blake.
Aside from being way taller than you’d think and quite handsome by pretty much anyone’s standards, he’s also rather unassuming, with shaggy hair in his eyes, a grey knit sweater, and occasional smile. He comes off as shy and talks little between songs, but he has a gorgeously powerful voice that he carefully utilizes for maximum impact.
It felt like an evening of special moments rather than a set of songs. His acclaimed 2011 debut was as noticeable for its sparseness above anything else. The spaces between words and notes juxtaposed with perfectly timed swells and builds.
We got to experience it last night – particularly on “Wilhelm’s Scream” and “Limit to Your Love” – and the incredible solo encore, a cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You”.
He also treated us to four new tracks, the unbelievably sexy “Retrograde” and, my new favorite, “To the Last”. The new songs are noticeably more layered but never busy. Always JUST right.
In a mid-set interview with Jason Bentley, he talked about how the album “Overgrown” came to life. How did Wu Tang’s RZA end up on “Take A Fall For Me“? Well, he created a beat and “it sounded like he should be on it”. He also turned to Brian Eno as a mentor when he was “tearing his hair out” making the new album, with lots of opinions being thrown his way. Truth be told, he does most of his writing with a simple setup at home — a computer, mic, and keyboard — and says the best songs seem to start on piano. However, he said having come to engineer/mixer Bob Clearmountain’s studio and performing for an audience was giving him “good ideas for the next album” and making the recording more of a hang out experience.
Where James really impresses is in his ability to pour his heart out and bring intimate and personal music to a crowd – not an easy task. And we were all very luck to be there to experience it.
The session will air on Morning Becomes Eclectic on May 13. This was the first radio session he’s recorded for the new album!
James Blake Live on KCRW — Set List
I Never Learnt to Share
Limit to Your Love
Our Love Comes Back
To The Last
A Case of You (Joni Mitchell cover)