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James Blake At Terminal 5, Thursday, May 9th, 2013, Reviewed

At a sold out Terminal 5 show the audience morph into Arab Bedouins, wandering through the three floor nightclub, restlessly, tirelessly, in search of a sightline. I’d given up half an hour earlier and was sitting on a sofa watching James Blake’s performance through a close circuit television, only interrupted by the restless audience.

Blame T5. But also blame the 24 year old electronic whizz kid cum singer songwriter for a performance that really wasn’t too high on the visual side. Blake remained perched behind his two keyboards for the entire set, while his drummer and guitarist facelessly, though very powerfully, supported him. And the set, from all points of his career, made up for visual panache with a sound which consistently thrilled whether mining a  Justin Vernon sweet falsetto on dark songs about betrayal and families, or switching to a loud, bass so heavy the floor was trembling, slash and stab synth sounds reminiscent of no one less than Beak.

The song before the encore, Blakes immensely popular and completely beautiful “Retrorade” seemed to cut the middle ground between the two and the audience swooned… actually, there was a lot of swooning gong on. Apparently Blake is a heartthrob and the squeals were intense as though it was 1D or something. I was in the front at the side to start and slowly but surely college girls pushed me out of my perch as they craned their heads for a glimpse of the man. Blake has a cute blandness about him, albeit not musically. he looks a bit like James Blunt, fortunately he sounds nothing like the Bluntoid.

Musically, the man is pretty excellent. “To The Last “sounds like pop by a soulful  robot with a vocoder distorting the sounds, “Klavierwerk” is hyperventilating ambience and the strobes make you worry you’re gonna have a seizure any moment. It is lively and enliving music but it is a bore to watch. The visuals are a dark when not lit (if you see what I mean) stage with men sitting and playing and that’s about it. There is no close circuit on the stage so you can’t really see what they are doing, Blake is facing us so we can’t see his hands, and Blake mumbles so if he has anything of interest to tell you, and from what I could make out he doesn’t, you can’t understand it anyway.

I am not sure what Blake can do about this, if, indeed he chooses to do anything at all. My guy is, we are stuck with a static performances piece and if you have an ounce of sense you will stp fighting it, find a sofa and watch it on television.

Grade: B-

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