Presented by III Points and Young Arts
Young Arts Campus, Miami
Friday, December 5, 2014
Better Than: Sunday mass.
We're not really a religious bunch. But last night, James Blake took us to church.
The English artist brought heavenly chords and a voice like honey to his Florida debut at Miami's Young Arts Campus for III Points and YoungArts' Basel 2014 music series.
Oh, and he made his first time count, giving adoring fans a number of deep cuts, like the recently released "200 Press," and even unleashing "Forever," a never-before-heard taste from his forthcoming album, for the encore.
We could have sat there listening to Blake all night. It was easily the most transcendent 90 minutes of our week.
The performance had been a long time coming for the city of Miami. Promoters have been vying for the chance to bring the "Wilhelm Scream" producer to the Sunshine State since he first took over soundwaves as a dubstep king. Mind you, Blake is of the old-school style, much more akin to UK garage and house music than anything most Americans would recognize as wub-wubs.
Blake's time in the DJing world is perhaps most apparent in the tasteful dynamics of his work. He knows how to take a crowd on a journey, with plenty of time for sorrow, joy, elation, loss, hesitation, and even a good fist-pump or two.
Blake hit the stage at 10:30 p.m., sending ripples through the crowd, as everyone turned to look before running over from the back lounge and bars.
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He began with his moving, often-performed rendition of Bill Withers' "Hope She'll Be Happier," casting a spell on the hundreds in front of him with a soft delivery amid quiet, yellow light. Only a minute or so in, and it was already shaping up to be a spiritual experience.
He followed with "Radio Science," a tale of heartbreak with an edge. Then he and his band kept things moving, turning things up in proper Miami style with some Latin rhythms for "CMYK."
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All night, Blake's set was incredibly well paced. He knows just when to reel you in or give you room to dance. His peaks will make you sweat and his valleys are so deep, you'll cry.
He thanked the crowd here and there, but mostly let the music do the talking. The lights played perfectly off of his moods. At his softest moments, it'd be him under a single silver spotlight, then they'd flash violently as the bass would kicked in and his chords deconstructed like from the belly of a haunted organ.
Of course, nothing is perfect. Throughout the set, there was the usual Miami talkativeness. And at the show's quietest moments, it was occasionally even a little embarrassing. But if the piano man took any notice, he didn't seem to care.
After dazzling with big hits "Retrograde" and "Wilhelm Scream," he seemed genuinely moved by the crowd's love. "Thank you, you've been amazing," he said, and took a bow.
The adoration erupted when he left the stage dark, and he soon returned with the tease from his forthcoming album, a new song called "Forever." It's another beautiful, introspective piece, which he performed alone on the piano.
From the sounds of it, Blake's new record is tinged with recent heartbreak, and with what we know about his collaborating with heartbreak kid Kanye West, we couldn't be more excited to hear how it all comes together.
For now, we'll have to be content with the memories of last night. At least they should be warm enough to get us through winter.
James Blake's Setlist
-"Hope She'll Be Happier"
"Air and Lack Thereof"
-"I Never Learnt to Share"
-"To The Last"
-"Limit To Your love"
-"A Case Of You"
-"Life 'Round Here"
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