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James Blake at First Avenue – September 28, 2011

29 Sep

By: Natalie Gallagher

James Blake looks every inch like the sort of cherub-faced English schoolboy that would be a more appropriate lead in some soulful all-male folk pop ensemble. He’s got that gently tousled hair, that innocent, embarrassed blush of a young star whose rise was unexpectedly fast… despite all those cues, however, Blake has gained quite the reputation as the resident dubstep virtuoso of the indie music world. And holy crap, does he do the title justice. Blake’s show at First Avenue’s Mainroom last night was remarkable, mainly, for the incredible power of his music, which had young twentysomethings (seriously, we’ve got to find a new synonym for “hipsters”) in a trance. I’ve seen all kinds of shows at First Ave, but this was particularly intriguing because, as Blake slammed out the most incredible beats—songs with a bass so deep you felt it in the back of your throat—the crowd treated it a lot like church. Bodies were swaying, heads nodding slowly, lithe girls were moving their bare shoulders back and forth in an unconsciously self-conscious sexy way. It was like hipster church, without the Jesus.

Snideness aside, the talent Blake has for what he does is immeasurable. Comparisons to religion are not wholly unjustifiable; there is a certain spirituality to his music, to the way “Lindisfarne” reverberated through the amps, shaking the listener’s entire body. I know, because I was standing purposefully right by the amps next to the stage, and instead of putting in my earbuds like a normal, sane person should, instead of backing away, I found myself drawing closer, delighting in the vibration I felt from my nostrils to the hair follicles on my unshaven legs. This was different. Blake isn’t about loudness, he’s about deepness—and if he can manage to shatter your eardrums, it’s worth it.

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