California Literary Review

When You See Sparks

A CLR Music Blog

James Blake in Chicago: Sold-Out and Silent

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June 16th, 2011 at 4:12 pm

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I was late to the must-attend show in Chicago of 2011…and I’m better for it. James Blake went on stage around 10:00, I arrived close to 10:10, and before opening the heavy doors to the concert hall floor, I heard no indication that there was anyone inside. If I had arrived on time, I would have seen James Blake and his two bandmates emerge onto the dark stage from the even darker depths of the space, heard the likely thunderous applause, and then seen what happened next (probably a very similar scene to what I walked in on 10 minutes later).  The venue, having sold out within minutes of tickets going on sale 4 months ago, was packed to the brim. The balcony railing had arms and feet hanging over its edges, the only break in the second floor (or ceiling) created by the unbroken sea of heads was the skinny tattooed arm topped by a platter of drinks wading through the crowd. Quite the raucous setting, no? No. Instead the crowd was silent, dead silent. No pinging of beer bottles, clearing of throats, chewing of ice. Just complete silence for Blake to manipulate. And that’s what I walked in on. For those that have listened to the record, which you should if you haven’t, this concert made me realize what makes it so special: it is full of patience. It can’t be rushed, and Blake and every member of that crowd were fully aware of that when they stepped into that hall. James Blake went on to put on a delicate, powerful when it needed to be, but more often than not almost uncomfortably honest, set of less than 45 minutes. Feeling some tightness in my jaw the next morning, I’m fairly certain that my mouth was agape for that entire time.

Here is a clip from the show, James Blake at Lincoln Hall in Chicago on May 15th, 2011:
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