Published on February 14th, 2011 | by Robbie Wojciechowski
James Blake At The Borderline: HMV NEXT BIG THING
For my first time at the Borderline, I wouldn’t say my impression of it is that of overwhelming appreciation. Although the artists playing tonight were magnificent, HMV’s choice to place their main gig of the night at such a weak venue seemed like a strange one. With awful door staff and an early awkward atmosphere I didn’t come to feel comfortable until just before the headliner, luckily though with an absorbing set from the highly tipped James Blake, the night ended well.
Described as ‚Äòthe hottest ticket in town’ by compere XFM DJ John Kennedy, many would say it was the perfect time to catch James before he rockets into stardom. With the record released next week, for many it was their chance to catch an eager listen at what they could expect from it. Choosing the support himself James Blake called upon Cloud Boats and Catherine Okada to help him declare HMV’s Next Big Thing festival open. As the venue filled, the barriers between hushed conversations in small groups seemed to fall down as individuals started talking with other eager audience members on what the next hour might hold.
Hitting the stage boldly at 9.45, I think many were surprised at just how tall James is with his demeanour, taking a seat quaintly at the piano the first track came almost instantly, ‚ÄòUnluck,’ the album opener. Although a lot less produced and glitchy in comparison to the album version, it offered a nice opener to the set. The heavy bassline’s of tracks such as ‚ÄòThe Wilhelm Scream’ and ‚ÄòLimit To Your Love’ resonated powerfully around the edges of the compact bunker like Borderline, shaking the floor and finding itself weaving up through people’s bodies as every intense drop could be felt. The set was short, but a sweet insight into tunes we can expect to hear getting much more radio-play soon. The repeated phrase of ‘My brother and my sister/don’t speak to me/but I don’t blame them/I don’t blame them’ from ‚ÄòI Never Learnt To Share’ sticks out as a track that shouldn’t work but does and that can be applied to a lot of the record, making converting them to live tracks much more difficult.
Everything blends though, rough as it is, James’s live show offers an opportunity to glance into an experimental world of music but still holding onto a mainstream acclaim. I expect he’ll be one for the coming festival season with his absorbing vocal melodies and easy going atmosphere. HMV have been bang on with this one, as it opened a brilliant start to what looks to be an intriguing festival.
What’s your view? Let us know in the comments section below…