Leave it to an English singer how to show Americans how to do electro-soul the right way. With two critically-acclaimed albums and a highly-anticipated third album, The Colour in Anything, on the way, crooner James Blake had no problem selling out the Lincoln Theatre the same day tickets went on sale. And it’s easy to see why: His one-of-a-kind vocals combined with live instrumentation, an LED backdrop, and the occasional chest-rattling bass made the Lincoln Theatre show a multi-sensory experience.
With three raised platforms on stage, Blake performed alongside a drummer and a guitarist that alternated between effect-heavy electric guitar and synthesizers. Behind the trio stood a stage-spanning LED screen where increasingly complex shapes and patterns moved about in hypnotic fashion. Of course, when Blake is at the mic, not much else is needed to put the audience in a trance. But the trio also demonstrated their knack for creating dancefloor-ready beats that had people moving. And, as Blake noted during the set, all of it was being done live without any pre-recorded sounds.
Blake reminded fans why he is a powerful musician. He displayed a mastery of the looping machine, especially during the acapella set closer “Measurements” and setlist staple “The Wilheim Scream”. He had the audience’s full attention when playing a solo cover of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” at his keyboard. And, of course, newer songs like “Timeless” had a lot of heads nodding along to the down-tempo hip-hop beat. He is a musician that can get crowds to move to the beat just as easily as he can get them to stand in stunned silence. The live experience of a James Blake show sets the bar very high for other musicians.
Opening for James Blake was Moses Sumney, a musician who utilized his own looping machine to amazing effect. His doo-wop-inspired falsetto and clean guitar tones had the crowd’s complete attention. He slowly layered vocals (organic and vocoder-aided), percussions, hand claps, snaps, and guitars on top of one another to create grandiose soundscapes. The crowd was enraptured by his performance from the very start and gave a long standing ovation when his brief half-hour set concluded. Fans of looping machine greats like Kishi Bashi, Andrew Bird, and Reggie Watts should keep tabs on this up-and-coming musician. His latest independently-released EP, Lamentations, was released on September 30.