Gig review: James Blake @ Warehouse Project, Manchester

Guy and friends put on gig. That’s what James Blake’s headline show at the Warehouse Project last Saturday should have been called.

The 26-year-old’s 1-800 collective made the underground car park club night feel as though it was strung effortlessly together by a few mates surprised by the 5,000-strong turnout.

This Mercury Prize-winner isn’t bragging; he’s not taking the real top spot at tonight’s performance.

Indeed, he’s brought his talented mates to show off what they can do. Full live set by Blake – he makes it feel just a coincidence.

It didn’t get off to a great start though.

Like it or loath it, many Store Street nights are often fuelled by drink, if not other substances, for many punters.

Take away the access to money that pays for the hedonism and you’re left with a pretty melancholy, sobering experience – much like listening to James Blake from the comfort of your home.

And that’s what WHP found when they didn’t take card at any of the bars. And when both the cash machines inside were out of order. And when the bouncers were refusing to let anyone leave to get money from outside.

They faced a revolution from thirsty revelers who were being told that they’d have to go it alone – to get through the next six hours of raving without any alcohol assistance.

After a couple of support DJs warmed up the crowd, it was time for main man Blake to take to the decks.

For what is, essentially, moody jazz, it felt noticeably odd at points that this 26-year-old floppy-haired singer-songwriter was able to pack out Warehouse, of all places; a venue famed for hosting such big dance names as The Prodigy and Disclosure.

But when his set kicked off, his eponymous blend of ethereal, soft electro-indie switching unexpectedly and gracefully between haunting and hysterical, leading the crowd deep into a swaying trance, it made perfect sense.

His followers hung on to every lingering last note as he dragged out huge bass drops, sending the sweaty audience into an ecstasy of primed expectation. Blake delivered.

Despite busting out all the crowd-pleasers, he wasn’t afraid to throw in a B-side for the die-hard fans who really came just for his live set.

After exactly an hour’s playing, and with probably no more than about ten words imparted on the audience, Blake left the stage, passing on modestly the baton to his mates who make up the remaining members of 1-800-Dinosaur.

1-800, originally a London club night, now a DJ trio, is made up of Blake’s manager and former label boss, Dan Foat, and UK producer Rob McAndrews, who goes under the slightly more glamorous pseudonym of Airhead.

Standing next to a pay-and-display parking machine, it’s crazy to think the venue also doubles as a car park underneath Piccadilly Station. For 1-800, famed for their eclectic and innovative musical focus, it couldn’t be more appropriate.

Blake might be a classically trained pianist with roots in jazz and soul, but at heart he’s an innovative dub pioneer with a natural talent for producing. 

Image courtesy of Kmeron, with thanks.  

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