photos by Amanda Hatfield words by Andrew Sacher
James Blake and Austra are both currently on their own tours, which after hitting separate Manhattan venues on Wednesday (10/5), crossed paths at Brooklyn's Music Hall of Williamsburg last night (10/6).
Austra started things off around 9 PM with the brooding slow-builder "Darken Her Horse." Unlike the sunlit Pier 54 that Austra played this summer, the dark tightly packed Music Hall of Williamsburg housed their gothy electropop perfectly. Katie Stelmanis took to the center of the stage dressed in white, while her backup vocalists were each in black, and as always, the three singers took charge of the show with their operatic voices and ghostly dances. After easing into their set with the most atmospheric song of the night, they picked things up with the disco-bass of "Young and Gay" and had turned the MHOW crowd into a full blown dance party a couple songs later with "Lose It." Yet no matter how enthusiastic the crowd got, the band's diabolic demeanor never faltered. The mood switched briefly from disco to tribal with the extended drum intro of "The Choke," but turned full on zombie prom during the aptly named "Beat and the Pulse."
After about a half hour break, James Blake walked out by himself to his keyboard setup on the stage at Music Hall of Williamsburg. He went directly into "Enough Thunder" off the EP of the same name which comes out this Tuesday (10/11) and is currently streaming at ABEANO. After repeatedly selling out larger venues, it was great to see James back at MHOW, where he made his US debut only seven months earlier. After the first song, he was joined by his band to continue the set. When James softly began the a cappella intro of "I Never Learnt To Share," the crowd's approval was so loud that you could hear the venue's PA shouting their cheers back at them as James looped his vocal harmonies. The song got even more intense when strobes kicked in over the instrumental break led by James' sharpest keyboard riff on the album. Despite James' ability to cause such overwhelming applause from the audience, he was still able to keep the entire room silent during the commanding "Lindisfarne."
A huge highlight of the set came when the band went into their live rendition of "CMYK." The drummer triggered the "look I found her red coat" vocal samples on his pad and James handled the pitch-shifted falsettos with his own mic. While most of the material on the LP moves bodies with its cavernous bass drops, the upbeat rhythms of "CMYK" are a refreshing (but not out of place) change in mood. During the song's ending passage, the guitarist took over the vocal samples, and as the song would normally end, the band came back in hard as the drummer pounded away a clave beat with live snare. James and his band followed the song with their brilliant take on Feist's "Limit To Your Love." They carried this one out too with an extended ambient dub jam at the end.
After a few more songs, including another new one and standout single "The Wilhem Scream," James and his band left the stage. Minutes later, James returned by himself for an encore and said, "I'm gonna end this the way I started. Not with the same song, but you know." Like he did at his first MHOW show, he played his solo piano rendition of Joni Mitchell's "A Case of You," took a bow and left the stage. It's too bad Austra didn't have time to do their Joni Mitchell cover too.
More pictures, videos, and setlists from the show below...
James Blake - "A Case of You" (Joni Mitchell Cover) at MHOW 10/6
Darken Her Horse
Young and Gay
Beat and the Pulse
James Blake Setlist:
Tep & The Logic
I Never Learnt To Share
To Care (Like You)
Limit To Your Love
Once We All Agree
The Wilhem Scream
A Case of You