James Blake at the Entry, 5/16/11

James Blake

May 16, 2011
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis

"When we got here earlier we walked through the bigger room, where we thought we were playing," James Blake said, laughing shyly as he addressed the crowd midway through his set last night. "I thought, why aren't we playing there? That's where Prince played! But now I'm here, I see. This is incredible."

With nearly every person in the sold-out room holding perfectly still, every detail of Blake's music was on full display as he worked through his nine-song set; it was one of the quietest crowds I'd ever seen fill the Entry's small room. Before Blake even began to play, a handful of people started shushing one another, and the persistent demands for folks to "shut the fuck up," as my neighbor so succinctly put it, were so omnipresent that it led a nearby concertgoer to joke between songs that "Getting annoyed about being annoyed is annoying."

The extreme attentiveness from the crowd paid off in the end; Blake's is the kind of music that demands a certain level of stillness to be fully appreciated. The first few songs of the set were an exercise in patience, as the trio of musicians wove together intricate and sometimes whisper-quiet vocal loops, digital sequences, and time-bending drum pad beats, and it made the first rattle of quaking bassline all the more gratifying. By the fourth song, "I Never Learnt to Share," the bass was hitting so hard that you could feel your clothes seizing atop your skin, and it gave the pensive audience its first chance to nod their heads and groove around ever so subtly.

"Lindisfarne II," on the other hand, toyed with a layered, digitized vocal effect that had everyone around me whispering "This sounds like Bon Iver," a comparison I also drew the first time I saw Blake perform down in Austin, Texas during SXSW. Though the ol' internet hype factory initially started fawning over Blake for his supposed recreation of dubstep music, his newest material seems to favor a more soulful, spare style of songwriting, and those paper-thin moments only add to the guttural blow of his maniacal, enveloping climaxes.

Blake seemed to sincerely appreciate the quiet crowd. At one point he looked up and grinned, declaring that it was the "first show I've played where there wasn't a whole row of iPhones" and congratulating the room for paying attention. And for his encore, which was a performance of an unrecorded song "Tell Me, Are You With Me," he introduced it by saying, "I'm kind of saving this song for the gigs that go really well, the ones I like."

Though the audience did their best to give a hefty final ovation, Blake left the stage after a one-song encore and didn't return, with his total performance clocking in at just under an hour. Judging from the crowd's hesitance to leave the side of the stage and Blake's own starry-eyed impressions of his inaugural visit to the iconic downtown club, something tells me he'll be back sooner rather than later. He just might get to play that big room after all.

James Blake at the Entry, 5/16/11
James Blake at the Entry, 5/16/11
Critics' bias: I'm a sucker for shows that demand silence.
The crowd: Twentysomethings with incredible attention spans.
Overheard in the crowd: "Shut the fuck up! Seriously!"
Random notebook dump: The smattering of EDM kids that showed up expecting a dance party seem confused, but happy nonetheless.

Set List:
Give Me My Month
Tep and the Logic
I Never Learnt to Share
Lindisfarne II
To Care (Like You)
Limit to Your Love
The Wilhelm Scream

Tell Me, Are You With Me (new)

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