In support of his 2021 album Friends That Break Your Heart, James Blake is playing at the O2 Apollo on 1 May.
The tender torch songs of Blake’s eponymous first record caught the music world by surprise. Here was a 22 year old with something different – a fully-formed, genre-spanning style that was entirely his own. Haunted by the spectre of dubstep and pre-occupied with vocal and piano manipulations, the tracks that filled Blake’s debut were characterised by emotional starkness, bold experimentation and masterful song-writing, with the soulful ‘Limit To Your Love’ an obvious standout. As stark and evocative as his debut, 2013’s Overgrown ached with even more longing and soul, partly due to Blake’s matured song-writing and partly due to the inclusion of gospel and R&B elements, which tempered his characteristic self-effacement with a newfound swagger.
His following two albums – The Colour In Anything (2016) and Assume Form (2019) leaned further towards pop while embracing collaboration, with Blake inviting artists as varied as Frank Ocean, Bon Iver and ROSALíA into the fold. During this period he also operated as the enigmatic engine behind some of the most influential albums of the 21st century, producing choice cuts on Frank Ocean’s Blonde, Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN, JAY-Z’s 4:44, Beyoncé’s Lemonade… the list goes on. Oh, and he casually picked up a GRAMMY, too.
Fast forward to 2021 and Blake dropped his fifth and latest album: Friends That Break Your Heart. It blends his impassioned vocals with eccentric electronics, sorrowful piano motifs, stirring orchestration, processed samples and beats that sit somewhere between hip-hop, future R&B and the post-dubstep experimentation that marked out the early portion of his career. It’s basically James Blake going full James Blake, and we’re here for it.
And we’ll be there for it at the O2 Apollo on 1 May, when Blake will give the album a live airing, while breathing fresh life into old favourites like ‘Retrograde’, ‘Life Round Here’ and ‘Mile High’.