I think we were all slow starters on this Sunday afternoon, the third day of Northside.
Since we’ve talked so much about the weather this time, I will only mention that the clouds and drizzling rain only fitted well with this afternoon’s James Blake setup. Opening with a calm piano track followed by ‘Timeless’, James Blake’s beginning fell right into the mood of the people standing closest to the stage in their rain coats. The mood was a little gloomy, but it all lit up a bit as soon as we heard the artist speak. James Blake is always kind enough to share some words with us, and he said ‘I like the atmosphere these gray clouds are giving us. It’s very moving, actually’ and then he gave us a smile, and the gloomy atmosphere suddenly seemed more acceptable.
With high expectations, the audience looked right back at him, some talking a bit too loud, and others were already waving their hands in the air to show the artist their acknowledgment. Then, with the first keystrokes of “Limit to Your Love”, several fans in the crowd pulled out their phones to get James Blake’s crispy and powerful vocals recorded. Cheers and screams went across the field as James Blake skillfully switched the focus from piano and vocals to a deep and roaring bass, that made the near standing fans wish they had brought ear plugs. Yet another classic move from the artist: a slow but vibrating hit.
At one point, he actually made me think of Imogen Heap’s ‘Hide and Seek’ for a moment. It was the lovely ‘Love Me in Whatever Moment’, where he had replaced his sounding vocals with a deep mouth organ sounding effect. Usually, I’m not into too many effects added to the vocals, but James Blake does it with style, and he does it to enhance other more electronic parts in his songs. As some of his performance went quieter, but also heartbreakingly emotional with ‘My Willing Heart’, it almost felt like people’s murmuring about their hang overs was filling up in the background… maybe this time James Blake was too quiet an act for the audience waiting for Radiohead to play in a couple of hours.
But that’s just the way he is… A bit quiet, that is. You just have to enjoy it. But James Blake was well aware that he had to grab his audience and lift them up once in a while – so with one look and a smile, he moved on to a rave version of ‘Stop What You’re Doing’, with bells clinging, roaring bass and squeaking synth elements. A small group of people broke out dancing happily, enjoying the more upbeat moment.
James Blake ended his concert with the calm ‘Starry Night’, that he laughingly had to start twice, and the incredibly moving ‘Retrograde’, that had us all humming along and swaying to the aching sound of Blake’s carefully swirling, high pitched voice. A very skilled but humble and appreciative artist. He knows that his music is quiet, but he does whatever he can to make people enjoy both the upbeat and the calm tracks. It was just a shame that some people were too consumed with their own hangovers, to really enjoy the concert in peace and quiet. But that’s not his fault. Before he went off the stage, we achieved a huge applause and he acknowledged with waving and a ‘You were really amazing. It is a definite honor to be playing before Radiohead. We are massive fans ourselves! Enjoy your concert!’ And then the beautiful voice took off.
"Cheers and screams went across the field as James Blake skillfully switched the focus from piano and vocals to a deep and roaring bass, that made the near standing fans wish they had brought ear plugs." (4/6)