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James Blake pulls a stunning audible with diverse set at The Chapel in SF

James-Blake_postPhotos by Pedro Paredes // Written by Molly Kish //

James Blake with special guest Airhead //
The Chapel – San Francisco
December 7th, 2014 //

Rolling into the Valencia Street house of musical worship this past Sunday night, a guest list-heavy, sold-out crowd packed it in tight to check out UK experimental R&B artist James Blake. While the venue is set up in a way that creates intimacy and direct engagement with virtually every act that comes through, Blake reached a whole new level of spellbinding closeness with those present. Playing new material as well as an impressive set that pulled from both his solo and collaborative records, Blake commanded the stage with his touring mates by washing over the venue in sights, sounds and sensory overload.

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Whether inspiring pin-drop silence with his stripped-down ballads or conversely rattling the walls of the secular setting, Blake utilized the venues’ rich history and audible dimensions to his advantage throughout the performance. An exercise in the emotive range of his body of work, the setlist varied from spine-tingling performances of “Limit to Your Love” and Joni Mitchell cover “A Case of You” to crowd-stirring and extended renditions of “Life Round Here” and “Voyeur”.

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Interspersing goose bump-inducing vocal tracks with an equally compelling bass-heavy, strobe-blinding trap set is no easy feat. Blake, however, did so effortlessly, only stopping intermittently to introduce his bandmates twice and playfully cover up a brief consistency glitch when debuting a new track off of his recently released 200 Press EP.

Teasing at the potential of new material dropping in 2015, buzz surrounding Blake has continued to escalate, leading into this small run of tour dates and West Coast DJ sets. Talks of possible high-profile collaborations with Kanye West, Justin Vernon and others following the release of his latest EP have started to stir up industry speculation in anticipation of the artist/producer’s next step.

If Sunday night’s show was any indication of the direction Blake’s artistic path is headed in, big things should be expected in 2015. Blake continues to breach expectations, something he seems comfortable doing well into the next phase of his career.

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