Reviewed onTuesday July 26
James Blake’s albums always sound like he’s showing you what he’s capable of while exercising a certain restraint, so I was very much looking forward to seeing him live. If his records are a frustrated Ferrari driver in Sydney traffic letting it be known just how much of a growl the engine can produce, then this concert was that driver being unleashed on the Autobahn with the roof down.
After Mark Pritchard warmed the woofers with an eclectic voyage of mysterious, enchanting and briefly cosmic sounds, Blake opened his set with ‘Life Round Here’ from the album Overgrown, and the large Hordern Pavilion crowd was hooked. Wearing jeans and a sweatshirt and supported by his trusty drummer and guitarist, he greeted the crowd with an understated British gentlemanly “hello”. ‘Radio Silence’ allowed him to poignantly demonstrate his beautiful falsetto capabilities, underlined by beats of such depth that have seen him go from the Factory Theatre in 2011 to packing out the Hordern. With the voice of an angel and the beats of a demon, it’s no surprise he’s appealing to the masses and making such a name for himself.
The stunning ‘Limit To Your Love’ and ‘Lindisfarne I’ and ‘II’ slowed things down and had the audience captivated. The latter tracks were particularly tender and created a feeling of an intimate venue, before ‘Voyeur’ reminded everyone where they were with some seriously meaty beats.
There are few artists with such range as Blake, and the way he worked his way though the set was exceptional. It was like being taken on a journey where you don’t know where you’re going or what’s coming next, but you don’t care because you know it will be amazing.
A piano solo took the set into the well-known ‘Retrograde’, and as it beautifully faded out it seemed like the perfect ending to an incredible performance. After leaving the stage to rapturous applause, Blake returned, gave credit to Ben Assiter (drums) and Rob McAndrews (guitar) for helping deliver a set without any pre-recordings, before closing the night out with an encore of ‘The Wilhelm Scream’ – a song written by Blakes’ father, and a fittingly sentimental note on which to finish.