A SONIC SPECTACLE: James Blake and Vince Staples at Radio City Music Hall
    • TUESDAY, OCTOBER 04, 2016

    • Posted by: Kirsten Spruch




    I walked into New York's Radio City Music Hall last night and immediately felt like a princess. The venue, for those who've never been there before, is beautiful. Way too classy for me. The main room makes you feel like you're at a fancy masquerade ball, bedecked in warm colors, royal patterns, and liquor in every corner. Then you enter the beautifully-designed theater which is almost overwhelming. Me, the emo girl who hangs out at Shea Stadium every weekend, thought "Why can't every show be here?" However later on, after James Blake's show was over, I answered my own question. But we'll get back to that later.

    Long Beach-based rapper Vince Staples warmed up the crowd after R&B songwriter Moses Sumney. This was my second or third time seeing Staples live and he once again delivered a quality show. The setlist mainly included cuts from last year's Summertime '06 and only one song, "Big Time," off of his latest EP Prima Donna. The venue didn't really do Staples justice, since his show has an energy that requires a standing, bouncing crowd. It almost felt like we were watching Staples rehearse in an empty room. He came out and performed his songs with little to no interaction, but we can blame that on the combination of having an opening slot and playing the wrong venue.

    James Blake's set started out dark with a small white star bouncing back and forth on a screen, slowly introducing other objects like planets, lines, and 3D shapes. The visuals made sure that we felt as if we were either in outer space or heaven throughout the entire show. There was an air of excitement in the room and the crowd was ready for an impeccable show -- which we most certainly got. Blake opened with "Always" off of his third album, The Colour In Anything, A.K.A his most emotionally-stirring album to date. He also performed others off of the record including the title track, "Timeless," "My Willing Heart," "Choose Me," "Love Me In Whatever Way," "I Need A Forest Fire," and others. Not hearing "Radio Silence" was a slight disappointment, but the rest of the setlist definitely made up for it. He touched on a lot of older songs as well, like "Limit To Your Love," "Voyeur," and even sang his verse in Beyonce's "Forward" off of Lemonade, to remind us just how awesome he is.

    There were three members on stage lined up in a symmetrical row with Blake to the right, the drummer in the middle, and multi-instrumentalist to the left. The gorgeous lighting highlighted each member, sometimes shining from the sides and sometimes hovering from above, creating a little box for each member. Blake took us into the sad and lonely world of The Colour In Anything, never breaking the mood. He kept banter in between songs to a bare minimum and when he did talk, it was pretty dry. After the fourth song, he finally broke the steady groove of music and said, "Thank you, I'm going to play as much music as I can," and then continued. Every song enabled Blake's voice to shine, even more than it already does on the records. What would start out as a low key ballad, highlighting his smooth voice, would then build into a banger, where the music grew louder and his vocals continued, purposely buried under the sound. It took the crowd through a roller coaster of feelings, and when emotions flew up high, people stood out of their seats and cheered.

    This was not a traditional show. No one was there to party or watch James Blake move around the stage -- every single person was there strictly for the music. It was a show where you could sit down, actually take in the music, and not care about what kind of outfit he was wearing. We watched him make all of the music live in real time. Towards the end of the show he said, "It took a while to get to this point -- to make electronic music. Or I guess it's just called music now," the crowd laughed. "And we do it with all real instruments. No space bar." Blake finished off with his last song "Measurements" where he created a gospel loop that went on and on as he exited the stage. It continued to play as we left the venue, which made it feel like we were leaving church. It was a true spectacle, more of a learning experience rather than some concert you go out to to turn up with your friends. And that answered my question, that's why not every show is at Radio City Music Hall. There was something religious about it. It calls for an artist that people really want to listen to. Someone that the audience is willing to follow. James Blake, we'll love you in whatever way.
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