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James Blake has been on the tip of many a tongue this year, after slotting himself onto every ‘cool’ music list in 2011. This thrust the London–born lad into the limelight, with hipsters galore tagging along for the ride. After releasing his self-titled debut album back in February, it was clear that however ‘trendy’ this guy was, thanks to his affiliations with the dance music scene, that he was by no means a passing fad.

Fusing delicate vocals and distinctive bass, James Blake highlighted this genre as the new sound for 2011. After playing the Thekla a few months ago, Blake has ‘upgraded’ to the Anson rooms this evening. It’s a perfect setting for a man on 90% of student iPods – not so great for other audience members. The room itself feels like a school assembly hall, with the audience shuffling in for that special end of term assembly. Complete with gaffa taped flooring, squeaky double doors and pints the price of two, the setting could be described as a little, unsettled. Nevertheless, the audience, compiled of young and old, seem raring to go and the atmosphere makes up for the lacking venue.

Opening the show for James tonight are Vondelpark, falling heavily into the ‘indie-electro’ category. This can sometimes be a bad thing, just like ‘indie-folk,’ or ‘indie-rock’ but the band set out to do exactly what it says on the tin, much to the anticipation of the audience. Starting out with a heavy sample of predictable bass/girlie vox, it’s easy to see why Vondelpark were a perfect choice for supporting tonight. However, after a song or two, the audience grow tired and begin the chat amongst themselves which is undeniably, due to the band’s predictability. Yes, the lead singer can sing (albeit a bit like Editors’ Tom Smith) and yes, the nice bassy samples add that ‘dubsteppy’ vibe that so many seem to be clawing to these days but they’re not blowing any minds here.

Around 9:30pm, James finally takes to the stage. The audience roar with excitement, which furiously echoes around the room – maybe it’s school-like dimensions are pretty damn good for accentuating the important parts. Coyly greeting the crowd with his boyish charm, James gets to work and opens with single ‘The Wilhelm Scream.’ Its stripped back appeal showcases Blake’s unique vocal abilities, whilst the bass gives the band and audience alike that extra kick. Continuing to play songs from his Mercury nominated album, it’s clear that James and his lighting guy are an artistic partnership made in heaven. Creating an atmosphere so electric, the lights dip and dive at every change in beat, proving that putting a bit of effort into your show can go a long way.

A highlight of the set is album favourite ‘I Never Learnt to Share,’ with the audience taking over chorus singing duties. James is clearly flattered, as he chuckles his way through the song and continues to thank his eager crowd once it’s finished. The absolute highlight of the set however, has to be the band’s rendition of ‘Limit to Your Love’ – the single that put Blake firmly on the radar. Starting off slow and gentle, the anticipation of that drop is clear to see and when it does, the room erupts. Mr.Lighting does it again, thrusting strobe lighting into the crowd, which simply solidifies this moment as the best in the show. Extending the original to a 6 or 7 minute showstopper, the audience scream with delight at its completion.

Playing a host of favourite singles, showcasing his clear talent and solidifying himself as one of the key figures in music today, James Blake’s live set is one not to be missed; let’s just hope this kid’s no one trick pony.

Words: Sammy Maine
Photo: Laura Williams