Yesterday afternoon I drove to Portland to see James Blake perform at the Wonder Ballroom. I only learned that he was going to be playing there last week, and without even really thinking about it I bought a ticket. I’m in love with his new album Overgrown, and could not miss such an awesome opportunity to see him on tour.
The Wonder Ballroom is a small venue on the East side of Portland. It’s one of my favorite places to go to concerts because of its size. The concerts usually feel very intimate, and the sound quality is great.
My friend Alex, who goes to college in Portland, and I met up a couple hours before the show and walked around the surrounding neighborhood, while we caught up with each other. The weather was gorgeous (as per usual as of late) so it was a lovely night to explore. It was fun to see a new (to me) area of Portland. There are so many adorable houses and modern looking apartments (that looked like awesome places to live) over there! We also checked out the local street art.
We walked into the Wonder Ballroom at around 9:15, and we’re lucky because James Blake came right on stage at 9:30.
He put on a beautiful show. I don’t even know where to start, or how to put the experience into words. One of my favorite aspects of the show was how the bass was able to shake the room. Throughout many of his songs, during the intense electronic parts, the floor vibrated which shook your whole body. You could literally feel the music, which was a very different and an amazing experience, after having only listened to the album through headphones up until then.
It was also awesome to watch him create loops live. James Blake often loops tracks and layers them on top of each other in his songs. Not only was it incredible to watch him pull that off with such ease and success in front of a live audience, but it was cool because the crowd’s applause occasionally would be heard on a looping track, which added a new component to his songs. It felt like the audience was able to contribute more to the show than just standing and clapping after songs (but I wonder if James likes this or gets annoyed with it interfering with his tracks). This leads to the topic of how awesome the crowd and overall “vibe” of the show was in general. Everyone danced throughout the whole set, as opposed to the subtle head bobbing that sometimes seems to spread like a virus at concerts. Also, I think James Blake’s music is very emotional, and it seemed that most people in attendance would agree. I got the feeling that everyone there deeply respected James Blake, and that seemingly universal attitude, made the concert feel very meaningful and special.
James Blake was interesting to watch too. While he plays his whole body moves with the music. To get kind of cheese ball it was almost like watching something magical happen (I use that word a lot, but only when I genuinely think it is applicable!). (Magic to me = Just something that is so beautiful/amazing and you can’t really explain why) (I probably just don’t have a great vocabularly which is why so many things are “magical” to me… doot da doo..).
He ended the show with an encore (I need to do a post about how much I hate the concept of encores… but anyways) and during the final song James played his cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You”. The two other musicians left the stage for this one, so it was the only song during which James was on the stage, alone. His version is stripped down, and while he played it, the audience gradually quieted, and something beautiful happened. He seemed to sway with the energy of the audience (or maybe it was vice vesra) and I felt the heart-breaking emotion in the songs lyrics, and the emotion which James brings to it as well. When it was over I realized I had teared up, and looked around and realized that most people were wiping their eyes as well. When he finished the song the room stayed silent for a long second, before the audience erupted with applause. Below is the song he ended the show with.
I am so so so glad I went to the show last night. Even though I had to wake up at 6 am to drive back to Eugene for work and class today (and plan on going to bed at 8pm) it was completely worth it. Ah. Amazing Show.