James Blake’s Alexandra Palace show was a live electronic masterclass
Playing to a 10,000 strong audience, the James Blake live show was one to remember.
James Blake live at Alexandra Palace. Credit: Getty
British electronic music titan James Blake returned to London’s Alexandra Palace last night and delivered a career-spanning live performance that effortlessly weaved between all-out rave catharsis and stripped-back vulnerability.
Having conquered Village Underground in 2016, and then Eventim Apollo in 2019, this was his second time commanding the 10,000-capacity Ally Pally (having previously played there in 2022).
As the lights faded to black, the melancholic yet hopeful opening sounds of Blake’s new record Playing Robots Into Heaven rang in search of connection, while James walked across the stage with the weighty machinery that adorns the album cover on his back – a cinematic entrance befitting of the soundscapes that followed.
Joined by the James Blake live band – Rob McAndrews, AKA Airhead, on guitar and modular synth, and Benjamin Assiter, AKA Mr Assister, on drums – Blake teased early on that the set would consist “of a bit of everything.” The news was no doubt a delight to the audience, who had forked out £40 for tickets to the show and many of whom were sporting his newest merch.
The performance was evenly split between piano-led emotion (Overgrown, Fire The Editor) and energetic club-ready workouts (Tell Me), allowing Blake to showcase the many different sides of his artistry throughout the evening. Often, he paired old favourites with newer creations, subtly bridging between two decades: the stripped-back piano keys of Frank Ocean cover Godspeed segued seamlessly into the new record’s heartbreaking If You Can Hear Me. Similarly, the air sirens and flashing strobes of 2013’s Life Round Here blended into the recent heavy-hitter Big Hammer.
After some typically humble (and very British) ‘thank you’s, Blake made clear that every sound coming from the stage was 100 per cent live. “There’s nothing going on behind the scenes,” he told the crowd; “no laptops or weird automated shit you can’t see. I’m not just trying to flex, I’m saying that because I’m really proud of it and, to me, that’s what being in a band is,” he continued. Blake added that while in other music genres that aspect of a live show is “accepted”, it’s “harder to do in electronic music.”
Even the lights were fully live, Blake explained, shouting out his concert lighting designer, Christopher Bushell. “It’s insane,” he commended; rightfully so, too: the cloud-like lighting that accompanied an indulgent Fall Back conjured the feeling of flying through a storm. “He’s playing in time with us, even though he’s miles away at the back of the room and is on a delay,” Blake added, astoundedly.
The historic venue’s cavernous Great Hall proved a fitting setting for the incredible light show and futuristic sonics that accompanied Blake’s career-spanning set. “The reverberation is great,” he declared later on, having sent his angelic voice soaring around the room during Asking To Break and I Want You To Know, while the chest-rumbling bass of the timeless Limit To Your Love proved strong enough to propel a helicopter. Similarly, a full-band rendition of CMYK was the ultimate treat for Blake fans.
“This is a very life-affirming sight from up here,” Blake said at the close, smiling. Undoubtedly, the thousands in the audience felt the same way.
Catch James Blake live and check tour dates via his website.
Asking to Break
I Want You to Know
Limit to Your Love (Feist cover)
Life Round Here
I’ll Come Too
Love Me in Whatever Way
CMYK / Stop What You’re Doing
Fire the Editor
Godspeed (Frank Ocean cover)
If You Can Hear Me
Playing Robots Into Heaven
Improv / Modern Soul
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