After the hefty, rough, 15-hour long drive through countless road works on the way home from Splendour the day before, waking up sick was the lowest of lows. Keeled over a toilet coughing up for most of the morning, I knew there was only one thing that could cure me. So I went to the computer, booked a ticket and, after emptying my chest, drove up to Sydney again for James Blake’s show at the Horden Pavilion.
Turning up near the end of Mark Pritchard’s thumping, bass-heavy set, which was enough to shake the buildings across the road, the sparse yet expansive crowd was grooving and moving just enough for me to squeeze up near the front. However good a DJ Pritchard may be, his reception was paled by that given to Blake and co. as they walked on stage. Starting with his much heavier live rendition of ‘Life Round Here’, the seamless segues into the emotional, heavy-hitting anthem off the new album, ‘Choose Me’, proved an instant hit among the crowd.
The sounds coming off the stage, throughout the whole set were captivating: from the silky smooth yet heavy hitting synths, rhythmically intense and off-kilter drumming from Ben Assiter, and the experimental sounds that sounded like anything but guitar from Rob McAndrews. This was only helped by Horden Pavilion’s immense sound system, especially in tracks like ‘Limit To Your Love’, shaking everyone in the room into submission to dance. However, this was turned right on its head for the following track, ‘Lindisfarne’, which had the audience so silent, the otherwise-unnoticed sound of a can falling on the ground pierced through the room like a gunshot. Blake’s loftily high voice on its own was angelic, yet with the vocal harmonies coming out of his Prophet synth, sounded like a choir at the gates of heaven.
The set itself had as good a mix of old and new as you could expect from a James Blake show nowadays; his back catalogue is so immense you could only scratch the surface in a 90-minute show. Yet it was filled with old favourites such as ‘Klavierwerke’ and ‘Voyeur’, as well as plenty off his latest release – ‘Timeless’, ‘Radio Silence’ and ‘Love Me In Whatever Way’ to name a few – as well as ‘200 Press’ off last year’s EP. The closing sequence of ‘Modern Soul’, ‘Retrograde’ and encore with the ‘Wilhelm Scream’ was enough to leave some in tears and the rest fighting to hold them back.
Walking out of the room, I had been cured. I’d choose him any day.
Get yourself a copy of James Blake’s new album now via his official website.
Photo credited to Demon Race Productions