Live Music: James Blake at Kool Haus in Toronto

James Blake Kool Haus Toronto 2013

The Kool Haus was packed on Sunday night for one of the worlds most versatile and unique talents, James Blake; whose recent album Overgrown received “universal acclaim” from fans and critics. It’s been a busy few years for James following the 2011 release of his first self-titled studio album which was also self-recorded. He has since produced a number of remixes under the name Harmonimx, recorded a two hour essential-mix for the BBC, taken home a Mercury prize and collaborated with artists such as RZA, Bon Iver, Brian Eno and Chance The Rapper. Among these accomplishments James has been performing constantly, from small personal shows to sold out festivals like Coachella and Germany’s Electronic Beat festival. James is known for the variety of his sets, taking the time to showcase each of the musical styles that inspire him, sometimes all at once.

James was accompanied on stage by his friends Ben Assiter on the drums and Rob McAndrews – who produces as Airhead – on the guitar. The mood was mystical as James made live loops of his own voice, playing favourties from his first studio release like “Lindsfarme II” and “I never learned to share”. The set was well paced, stacking some of the more EDM and dubstep influenced songs fluidly in between his haunting ballads and friendly chats with the crowd. After his half-set cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Case of You” he mused about his own fear of screwing up the lyric “Canada” when performing here. In a set filled with beautiful moments, one highlight would have to be his closing ten minutes. James gently asked the audience to please be silent as he looped his voice for the harmony-heavy song “Measurements”. The room turned into a cathedral with a dozen James Blake’s echoing in unison to an astonished audience.

The set was much like the album itself – there’s something in it for every one of his eclectic fans. Slow jams for the lovers, are contrasted by a twenty minute mid-set breakdown featuring some of the new EDM production James has been playing with lately (exampled by the track “Voyeur’ from ‘Overgrown”). With his collaborators Rob and Ben, James has hinted at a potential all EDM album in the future, keeping it interesting as his fan base grows. The classically trained songwriter has a lot of influences to draw on, and it’s anyone’s guess how his sound will grow, but if the last two years are any indication, he is uninterested in slowing down or staying quiet.

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