The Electric Factory welcomed James Blake back to Philadelphia Sept. 30. in the midst of a world tour following the May-release of his album, “The Colour in Anything.” “Colour” instead of “color” because Blake is a British dude and they’re no good at spelling.
The venue was fairly crowded by the time I arrived. The upper balcony was packed and the crowd extended way beyond the bar on the ground floor. A sea of hipsters clad in flannel and loose jeans waited anxiously for Blake to step on stage. There were also two guys dressed in business professional attire right smack dab in the middle of the venue, looking increasingly more uncomfortable and out of place as the crowd filled in.
Around 9:30 p.m., Blake and company filed onto the stage, in a neat line behind keyboards, drums and a guitar. Without saying a word, they started making noises. Not really music, since there wasn’t any discernible melody, but the noises sounded pretty darn neat. I’ll bet the businessmen were quite confused; they were probably just thinking about how they could be looking at stocks or making international calls with clients in China. But then, Blake started playing the first few notes of “Always,” a track off of “The Colour in Anything.” What a trickster, that Blake — he had just been playing a super extended version of “Always” the entire time! The drummer started slapping a pad and Blake’s looped voice started moaning “Always.” Blake hadn’t even muttered a word yet at this point. Music is crazy.
James and the drummer continued this method of easing out of one song into slower, rhythmic sounds, before beginning a new track. He moved from slower songs like “Limit To Your Love” to more bombastic ones such as “Timeless” and “Choose Me.” In the middle of the set, one of the businessmen, we’ll call him Gwent, whispered something to the other businessman, who we’ll refer to as Dinkle, and dipped to the back. Gwent was gone for a while and Dinkle was visibly distressed. He kept checking his phone and turning around, wondering when Gwent would return to spare him from the gruley agony of loneliness. Just as the the loud synths of “I Hope My Life” began to blast, Gwent returned, carrying two Red Bulls, which I thought was a pretty disappointing drink to wait that long for.
Blake is a talented dude. His voice was gorgeous, and it blended well with the exotic sounds he was crafting on stage. At one point, Blake put a pause on the groovy tunes to humblebrag about his band and how they’ve finally reached the point where they can make music on stage without relying on a laptop.
The show was coming to an end as Blake made his rounds through some of his hits, like “Retrograde.” I started to wonder if I would ever see Gwent and Dinkle ever again. Or if they would ever remember me, the short dude in a blue shirt who never said a word to them or made any eye contact at all. But then they finished the Red Bulls and just tossed the cans on the ground and left the venue, so screw Gwent and Dinkle. I hope their IPO for their deodorant subscription service goes horribly awry.
In summation: James Blake and his band put on a great show and they are beautiful, talented twinkles in my eye, and Gwent and Dinkle are gutter trash.