James Blake introduces a meaningful and necessary adjustment to our music world.
Blake, who was recently awarded the Mercury Prize for his album “Overgrown”, performed to an entranced audience in Iowa City on November 16. Eager fans filed into the Englert Theatre to see the English electronic producer and singer-songwriter from London. Excitement filled the 700+ venue all the way to its capacity. His captivating performance was dramatic, moving, and must be witnessed to fully understand who James Blake truly is.
Blake’s live performance is incomparable and second to none. The entire show I was soaked in and connected. I could feel everything Blake was feeling. It’s amazing how his voice is so muddled underneath his synth-heavy tracks yet I still understood every message.
It was a thought-provoking performance and brought together a vast age group. Sixteen-year-olds sat next to 60-year-olds and shared the experience as one. The deep show took the audience to another place. We landed on unchartered territory in the music world. Blake combines a multitude of genres into a cohesive blend. There’s electronic synths mixed into pianos and drums, collaborated with his auto-tuned voice lathered into each track.
When Blake performed “Retrograde”, females shrieked every time his voice hit the high-pitch, eerie melody woven into the track. In my opinion, this song was the strongest part of his entire performance. The fans standing as close as possible to the stage swayed and floated around to his every note. “Retrograde” sends out frustrated, angry, and tense emotions. Just when it feels like the song is about to explode due to Blake’s own madness, he saves the audience with his soft, hypnotizing melodies.
The crowd was asked to take no pictures and they respected it. His performance is strongly based on the emotions he’s creating through his noise, along with the powerful light show synchronized impeccably to each song. No flashes or cellphone screens interfered with the concert. We were detached from our every day lives. The lights washed over the audience as a flawless act and, to me, it felt like a musical baptism. As I walked out of the venue, I turned towards my friends and said, “This is how I’m supposed to feel after church.” I was rejuvenated and inspired. Blake is an intelligent, impactful artist and brings depth into the electronic music scene.
To get a small taste of what Blake’s capable of, here’s an album sampler of the award-winning “Overgrown”, he released a few months back:
All photographs by Justin Torner Photography.
To view the concert’s full gallery click here.
The show was presented by Scope Productions.