It's been quite a dastardly experience getting to the venue. Firstly, I was required to utilise a characteristic that I suffer greatly, having to wait very patiently for the powers that be to bestow confirmation that I, son of nobody, could go ahead and tell everyone who didn't go to this gig just what this gig was like. This manifested into having a train ticket for a time that had ever so painstakingly drifted by, which further manifested into a torrid game of inter carriage cat and mouse - myself jumping from toilet to bicycle rack to evade the clutches of this absolute brute of a train conductor, for a whole 2 hours and 20 minutes. Partner all of this with the fact that this was only the third time I have ever been to London (I know, I know) and it's a wonder that I didn't enter the venue as bald as a coot.

In some wonderful twist of fortune I arrived at 'Heaven' in an instant, leaving enough time to count the amount of trendy beanies, then compare them with the amount of trendy snapbacks. It's a long, narrow arch of a room, in which a rather talented DJ lays down some experimental dub tracks below a stream of blue light. His apparent hierarchal placement over any sort of support act probably indicates that he is in fact the support act, and I ought to know his name. None of this matters though, tonight is for James Blake.

He opens with a teaser of 'Air and Lack Thereof', as that cursed train ticket begins to melt in my hand. It's a slow, pulsating start to proceedings - more a statement of intent than a floor filler - yet it previews all of the elements that will soon slot together to reset your complete limbic system. 'I Never Learnt to Share' comes next, holding one of the most brutally wonderful musical ascents heard in the last ten years. Starting off with those oh-so-soft vocals, curiosity peaks around the lyrical intrigue as you begin to wonder just why James Blake has suffered this sibling silence? It's a stroke of genius to place it as the second track in the set, as it marks the very start of the trance that is this show. Building and boiling, that harpooning bass suddenly spills over. From hereon out, you are firmly in the palm of his hand.


New title track 'Overgrown' shifts the climate significantly, the aura surrounding the stage rapidly warming. A well rehearsed strategic change to a bath of red light reflects the new found ambience, as the last bout of synth in the final verse expands at an alarming rate to swallow up the entirety of the room. After working through a few debut album tracks - including a sublime breakdown with CMYK that brings the crowd as close as is physically possible to a fully blown wig-out - we move onto 'Our Love Comes Back'. In a similar sense to Jeff Buckley and Karen O, Blake harbours that rare ability to snap a vocal note halfway through, yet leave it sounding as delicate as the fracturing of a flower stem. It's exhibited throughout this track, and it's bloody wondrous. Sounding something akin to a digestive stomach noise, those big whooping bass drones are delivered to the crowd, yet they're only a preview of what's to come. 'Digital Lion' brings the tempo forward, and the thuds start to clatter away. The howls of the title line sound almost oppressive, and as the sub begins to swell, everything speeds up and starts to climb. Within moments, its feels like a viagra duped Humboldt squid has been fucking the inside of your ribcage since the dawn of the last ice age, and you're absolutely loving it. As some form of respite the drummer follows up with a masterclass in lightning speed digital percussion, which he repeats for a blissful rendition of 'Limit to Your Love'.

It's probably the correct choice to take the tempo right back down to the depths now then, have a little rest and all that. I'm now firmly inside of the belly of the beast though, and I'm starting to lose control of my extremities. I'm nowhere near drunk, yet my 75% full pint decides to slide straight out of my hand; it bounces clean off the trembling ground and covers the thighs of a few people infront. I feel that it is my duty to do the chivalrous thing and turn my head in the same direction that they do, admitting to nothing at all. It breaks the spell a little bit, but at least I realise we've arrived at the lead single for the new record, 'Retrograde'. He recently stated that this is his favourite track to sing, and it shows as he acrobatically leaps from the most authoritative of vocal chords to a retracted harmony of hums. He stands and takes a bow.


As the necessary pause passes, the band come back onstage to perform 'Voyeur' for the very first time. It goes straight for the jugular, jumping in with looped vocals, which then burst into a tornado of cowbells and hi-hats. Heavy undertones throb below, as the trio draw the track into an all out freestyle - then a bit more cowbell. It's not only the best track of the night, but it's one of the best encores I have seen. What comes next was quite unexpected. The first time I saw James Blake live back in 2011, he played a cover of Joni Mitchell on an open top Steinway and gave me one of the best live music memories that I have. Afterwards I thanked him. The other times I have seen him, he never played it, and whilst I could understand why, it made all of his other gigs feel a little inferior. As the band walk offstage to leave Blake on his own, someone behind me shouts "A Case of You! Please James!" It was as if I was actually very drunk, and I'd developed that king of the world idiocy that leads you to shout the things you're thinking at people. Surely not, I thought, he wouldn't play it here? He did. It was ethereal. It was heavenly. I smiled so hard my lips cracked.

The whole of the UK travel system didn't seem to agree with my happiness, and in an awful case of misprinting, I was lead to believe that the Dregabus I had boarded home was to be swapped for another up in Leeds. As I jumped off at 5:45am in the belief that there would be another coach waiting to take me home, the coach I had been on drove into the distance, changing it's little destination board to display the place that I wanted to go. A few more train games later, I arrived back home having clocked up a lovely 11 hours travel for just the one artist. It was James Blake though, and fuck me, was it worth it.








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