James Blake Assumes Form and Shatters the Stage

Britain’s nicest bad boy of music turned Terminal 5 into the pseudo-church of Blake for his two-night stay.

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James Blake performs his new album at Terminal 5. (via twitter.com)

Michael Muth, Staff Writer

James Blake might not be a household name that rolls off the tongue and seamlessly enters any conversation regarding music, but some of his biggest fans and collaborators certainly are.

The electronic musician with R&B and hip-hop flare has won over the hearts of Beyoncé, Jay-Z and Kendrick Lamar. He has collaborated with all three on their latest industry- shattering projects: “Lemonade,” “4:44” and “Black Panther: The Album.”

While Blake remains unknown to much of the world, the lanky 6’5” genius showed the concert goers at Terminal 5 on Feb. 24 and 25 precisely why his ear and talent are cherished by some of contemporary music’s biggest moguls.

The 30-year-old Blake has been building up a repertoire of idiosyncratic, electronic, self-produced work since 2010 with a self-titled debut album in 2011. His latest album, “Assume Form,” was released on Jan. 18, 2019. The album included features from some of the most celebrated names in the industry, including Travis Scott, Moses Sumney, Metro Boomin, Rosalía and Andre 3000.

The album itself may come across as slightly macabre at first as you can get lost in the whimsy of Blake’s complex production, enigmatic layered sounds of angelic vocals, and eclectic electronic bass lines. However, it is Blake’s creative yet simple lyrics such as “I can’t believe the way we flow/I can’t believe the way we live together,” and “Are you in love?/Do your best impression for me/I try my hardest for you/Are you in love?” that give “Assume Form” the charming, lovesick sensation that Blake must feel when in motion with his love Jameela Jamil. Adorably, Blake credits the album to Jamil, his girlfriend and muse for the romantic love album that is “Assume Form.”

Listening to the album on your way to class is one thing, but witnessing Blake hone his craft in the live setting of a concert in New York City gives listeners a completely new appreciation of his music. During the concert, Blake had two positions: sitting behind a synth pad and keyboard where he would play parts of his own accompaniment while singing beautifully and standing center stage with only his mic stand nearby.

Accompanying Blake on stage were two wildly talented musicians, who Blake identified as his friends since they were all eleven years old — bonus points for a heartwarming band backstory. Weaving in some of his classics like “Retrograde” and “Love Me in Whatever Way” with his new setlist of “Assume Form” tracks such as the Travis Scott joint “Mile High” or the acoustically reimagined “Are You in Love?,” Blake created a setlist that integrated the old with the new, the heartbreaking with the heart-warming — it was magical. The accompanying lights backing Blake were simple yet significant, creating fluorescent backdrops that paired perfectly with the atmosphere of each song. All in all, Blake’s Monday night concert felt intimate, romantic and familiar.

If you do not have Blake in your Sunday feels playlist, this is a call to action.  Count him among your go-to artists for music that evokes longing, loss and love.

Email Michael Muth at [email protected].