By Thalia Stopa
October 13, 2016
VANCOUVER — You probably wouldn’t expect a James Blake performance to test the structural integrity of the Orpheum Theatre; the 28-year-old English musician is better known for his talent of rattling emotional foundations with his brand of soulful electronic music than architectural ones. But although it was a terrifically stormy Thursday night, the historic venue was rumbling with bass thunderous enough to rival the awesome weather outside.
Aside from the incredible light-show – most memorably the flickering aquatic-like downward projections during “Limit to Your Love” – Blake held the audience captive from his position hunched over his synths and the majority of the audience remained respectfully seated throughout the nearly 20-song set. One vocal audience member claimed to want to dance – a laughable request by Blake’s account; following the funereal synths of “Love Me in Whatever Way,” the singer commented, “Well, I’m flattered you thought you could dance to that!” Blake did attempt to humour the eager fan by eliciting everyone to stand on the condition that they actually dance for the more melodic “I Need a Forest Fire” (a track featuring fellow electro-emo musician Bon Iver). However aside from that exception the packed theatre seemed content to acquiesce to their solemn surroundings and sway enraptured in their seats. Probably the track most conducive to raver gyrations was an homage to the pre-EDM dubstep genre courtesy of an old remix from U.K. producer Untold. Suddenly the decorous former vaudeville movie house was transformed to a British club that one could imagine as the ominous setting for a new James Bond film or the like.
Blake’s third album, The Colour in Anything, released earlier this year on Polydor Records, was a conscientiously more collaborative effort. However, apart from a brief vocal contribution from opener Moses Sumney, Blake’s only assistance was from his two supporting musicians (and childhood friends) on guitar, synths and percussion, each sharing equal stage space on three elevated platforms, and the artistic video projections behind the stage.
The musical additions were hardly missed and some of the most heart-wrenching tracks occurred during a solo encore comprised of “Wilhelm Scream” (a song adapted from a track by Blake’s father), a cover of the Joni Mitchell song “A Case of You” and the complexly looped 2011 track “Measurements.” The latter faded with the lights, allowing Blake to make a ghostly exit and cede the theatrics once again to the storm battering the city outside.BC, British Columbia, James Blake, Moses Sumney, Orpheum Theatre