Show Review: James Blake At The Mod Club

By Claire Cowan

I am not even entirely sure if I am ready to speak out on this topic yet, but this may be the best show I’ve yet to see in Toronto. The Mod Club seems to be a pretty reliable venue for churning out rich concert experiences, as my previous attendance was for an Odesza show, which until James Blake, was my favourite show thus far. James has yet to play the Mod Club, but he has played every other intimate concert venue in Toronto, with locations such as the Opera House and Lee’s Palace. The fact that he is capable of filling larger venues but chooses to keep his shows as personal as possible, saying he “feels so close to everyone, like a conversation in a living room.”

One member of James’ live ensemble of three was Rob McAndrews, known under his stage name Airhead, who opened the show with some incredible tracks, one blending into the next with spurts of vocals from Karen O of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. I truly believe how unaffected by the outer world he seemed, did not go unnoticed, as he calmly played his set, thanked the crowd, and headed off.

James entered the stage along with his two other band members and after a brief commentary with the crowd, began his set. James opened with a cover of Bill Withers’ “Hope She’ll Be Happier” (which practically disintegrated my heart inside my chest), then continued on with the show with grace. Mesmerizing the crowd with his incredible use of loops through his foot pedal, you could hear the crowd cheers after he played back the audio, along with his untouchable lyrics that seemingly use no tracks. His quirky and honest commentary regarding the end of his show was related to his take on the unspoken topic of encores, and how he would be finished the set after this next song unless he was invited back onstage, although he “never takes this invitation for granted.”

James was such a humbling presence to watch, and I truly wish the show didn’t end. I was unable to get any proper videos of the set, but I was at peace with this inconvenience once I realized that an iPhone wouldn’t even begin to do this performance justice. James encouraged the crowd to put their phones away for his new track played as an encore, which I truly believe had more meaning than to just keep fans from recording.

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