Before Blake’s set, opening act and California native Moses Sumney took to the stage and gave a charismatic, energy-filled performance featuring tracks from his brand new EP released earlier that day, Lamentations. The crowd was very receptive to Sumney’s ethereal sound, likely because it employs a soulfulness and an unconventional mix of arresting vocals and beats reminiscent of Blake’s. Sumney’s presence quickly filled the venue—he easily could have played a longer set, but his performance was enough to ensure a larger fan base than he had prior to stepping on stage. Late in Blake’s set, Sumney returned to large applause to perform alongside Blake during “Modern Soul,” their voices perfectly complimentary.
On Friday, September 30th, British phenomenon James Blake graced the stage of Philadelphia’s Electric Factory to deliver a moving performance filled with power and emotion. Blake is currently touring in support of his latest album, The Colour in Anything, released earlier this year on May 6th, 2016.
Blake delivers a unique mix of electronic and singer-songwriter, dub-step and R&B. He uses stagnant and ambient elements mixed with driving dance beats to compliment his smooth, pitch-perfect croon. Blake’s sound has noticeably matured over his career while retaining his signature haunting, melancholy-inducing vocals layered over sparse rhythmic progressions. The Colour in Anything delivers a decisive combination of orchestral ballads and synth-infused soul.
The set began with one of Blake’s faster-paced tracks, “Always,” inducing screams from impatient, eager fans who had lined the block surrounding the Electric Factory long before the doors opened despite the incessantly chilly drizzle that had arrived earlier in the day. Once inside the venue, those in the audience who had migrated to the left of the stage found themselves out of luck as Blake remained sitting behind his keyboard on the far right for the entirety of the show, a drummer and guitarist taking center and left-stage, respectively. Behind Blake an array of subtle yet striking visuals flew across a massive screen, alternating between the bleak watercolor aesthetic of the album artwork and dynamic geometrics.
Blake clearly had no need for overworked effects or crowd control—he is one of those artists whose lyrics hold so much meaning for listeners that merely being in his presence surrounded by other diehard fans was enough to create a tangibly reverent atmosphere within the Electric Factory’s walls. In fact, he very infrequently addressed the crowd between tracks, most notably pausing to address a problematic theme for touring electronic artists: playing their computer-generated tracks live. “It’s taken us a few years to get to where we can play it live, no laptops and no bull,” said Blake. “It’s electronic music, but it’s still music so let’s do it live.”
After performing hits new and old, the clear standout of which was the extraordinarily beautiful title track that held the audience in an awed stillness, Blake announced his last song to a wave of protest even though the worst-kept secret at concerts is that the last song is never truly the last. Blake delivered a flawless performance of his vocally and technically demanding repertoire that speaks to the critical success he has experienced in his latest works.
The Colour in Anything tour continues throughout North America before heading to the UK in late October. For tour dates and more information, visit http://jamesblakemusic.com/live/.