The Anthem is a lot more glitzy than most venues. It has a large concrete (or, at least, concrete-looking) floor, where the sections are nicely spaced out. There are restaurants and bars on almost all of the levels. Hues of bronze and gold glimmer from the darkness. And there are plenty of seats.
Yet as James Blake — the British singer, songwriter and producer who has four of his own albums, and has contributed to acclaimed projects such as Blonde, Lemonade and Astroworld — continued his performance there on Thursday night, it appeared as if the show was standing room only.
Blake, whose fourth album Assume Form was released last month, urged the crowd to stand during the first 20 minutes of the show. Not once did they sit back down.
“It’s such a surprise to get this kind of reception and support,” he said. “Thanks for listening to the record. It’s been a while since I’ve been here.”
“We love you!” one woman shouted.
“Welcome back!” a man cheered.
The stage was set with three square raised platforms, each with different instruments, and the one on the far left included a motherboard of sorts. The flickering lights and dramatic fog gave it the aura of a space landing. Then, after much anticipation, Blake’s lanky, well-over-6-foot figure wandered onto the far right platform, where he sat down at two keyboards: one facing the crowd, and the other, a dark red, facing the left.
From beginning to end, each note brimmed with passion and perfect pitch and control.
As his opener KHUSHI mentioned during his set, the audience was “really quite attentive.” Despite the talent in front of them, members of the audience barely took their phones out to record.
“We’re going to try to get through as much of the new music as possible,” Blake told the crowd. And he did just that.
When he wasn’t singing, he was playing. When he wasn’t playing, he expressed his gratitude to the audience. And when he wasn’t doing that, the voices of featured artists from Assume Form echoed through the rafters, including those of Travis Scott and André 3000.
Ten years ago — Blake, only 19 at the time — posted a timid comment on Dubstep Forum asking for feedback on his music.
“Safe everyone, i’m new here but y’all seem friendly so I was hopin you could check out a few of my tunes…anyway, heres the myspace innit,” he wrote.
At the end of his two hour-long set, the crowd roared with a request for an encore. He recorded a melody live before taking his final exit.
After a decade of hard work and refined skills, there is no doubt that Blake has rightfully gained an audience that cherishes the “tunes” he longed to share.